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Jackson fans, friends congregate for `This Is It'

Jackson fans, friends congregate for `This Is It'

The mood was bittersweet yet triumphant Tuesday night as fans, friends and colleagues of the late Michael Jackson attended the premiere for what would be his final bow _ a music extravaganza that captures rehearsals for his aborted concert stand last summer.
From evening and midnight screenings in North America to middle-of-the-night and morning showings in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, "Michael Jackson's This Is It" arrived simultaneously worldwide in the biggest cinematic blowout ever for a music film.
At the Los Angeles premiere near the arena where much of Jackson's rehearsal footage was shot, celebrities attending included Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Adam Lambert, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr.
Michael Bearden, musical director and associate producer of filmmaker Kenny Ortega's "This Is It," said that making the film was the most "bittersweet" project of his career, but he was happy "the world will see (Jackson's) triumph."
"I know he would have liked it," Bearden said. "Kenny Ortega and I, we considered Michael in every aspect of the movie. We were with him every day for the last three or four months of his life at least, so we know he would have liked what we did."
Opening in 99 countries Tuesday and Wednesday, the film expands to 110 territories by this weekend, with distributor Sony putting 15,000 prints of "This Is It" into circulation. The studio paid $60 million for the film rights.
The simultaneous showings around the globe was anchored by a star-studded premiere at the Nokia Theatre, a concert venue across the street from Staples Center, where many of Jackson's rehearsals _ and his high-profile public memorial _ were held.
The plaza in front of the Nokia Theatre was transformed into an elegant red-carpet arrivals area, with a dozen crystal chandeliers, displays of Jackson's past costumes and "This Is It" spelled out in giant letters.
Jackson memorabilia was on sale inside, from T-shirts proclaiming "I Love MJ" to key rings reading "King of Pop."
A few lucky fans won seats along the red carpet, while others filled the surrounding area, cameras in hand. Jackson's hits played on a loudspeaker.
Johnny Kuhn of San Pedro, California, won tickets to the premiere and came downtown early with his wife and two sons to take in the scene. He said he expected "This Is It" would be "happy and sad."
"We've lost a legend," Kuhn said.
Many fans waited in line for days to buy tickets for advance screenings of "This Is It" at the new Regal Cinemas on site, which was showing the film to sold-out audiences for its grand opening Tuesday on all 14 of its screens.
"For that to be our first movie ... the energy and excitement in the auditorium tonight is going to be phenomenal," said Russ Nunley, spokesman for Regal Entertainment Group.
The film, culled from more than 100 hours of rehearsal footage, shows an enthusiastic King of Pop meticulously crafting his moves and performing some of his most beloved hits.
Some of Jackson's family members and friends saw "This Is It" in advance. Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime friend of the pop star, posted her thoughts Monday on Twitter.
"It is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen," she wrote on the micro-blogging site. "It cements forever Michael's genius in every aspect of creativity."
The 77-year-old actress added that she "wept from pure joy at his God-given gift" and urged her fans to see the film "again and again."
The film has potential all-ages appeal, with the Motion Picture Association of America giving it a family-friendly PG rating for "some suggestive choreography and scary images."
Clocking in at one hour, 51 minutes, "This Is It" plays in a limited run of just over two weeks, lending it some of the exclusivity that had been intended for the concerts Jackson had planned in London.
"We think the 16 days is right. It's sort of a special event that you want to frame in a special way," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.
Jackson died June 25 at age 50. The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled the death a homicide, caused primarily by the powerful anesthetic propofol and another sedative. Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has not been charged with a crime but is the focus of the police investigation.
Jackson's 50 comeback concerts at London's O2 arena were to have begun in July.
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Associated Press writer Mesfin Fekadu in New York and Movie Writer David Germain in Los Angeles contributed to this report.