Theaters are gearing up for maximum demand

With just two weeks until Michael Jackson’s concert movie bows worldwide for a two-week run, theaters are gearing up for maximum demand.

In the U.S., “This Is It” will be the only domestic wide release launching during the Halloween weekend, a sign that rivals are conceding the frame to the documentary. Sony plans to roll out some 5,000 prints covering approximately 3,000 playdates, a large but not record-setting number for the U.S.

The Fandango online ticket site said that 34% of its sales on Tuesday were for “This Is It,” outpacing Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” with 27% and Warner Bros.’ “Where the Wild Things Are” with 15%. “New Moon” opens Nov. 20 and “Wild Things” launches Friday.

Overseas, Sony’s worldwide distribution-marketing topper Jeff Blake said the studio is planning a wide foreign release for “This Is It” with more than 8,500 prints sent out to exhibitors in 75 countries for the Oct. 28 launch — along with the 5,000 prints for the domestic launch. That’s not a saturation-level opening on the foreign side, in which tentpole releases such as “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” launch with more than 10,000 playdates, but it’s well above the norm.

Advance ticket sales launched Sept. 28 with reports of quick sellouts in Australia, France, Japan, Germany, New Zealand and the U.K. And competitors say interest appears high in several other major markets including Japan, the U.K., Germany and Mexico.

Studio’s set overseas premieres in Germany, Poland, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and the U.K. featuring a simultaneous satellite feed from the red carpet outside the Nokia Center in Los Angeles on the evening of Oct. 27.

Screenings will start three hours after the Los Angeles preem. The first audiences in Los Angeles will see the film at 9 p.m. local time so start time will be midnight in New York and 4 a.m. in London.

There will be more than 30 “This Is It” premieres in all, including events without the simultaneous feed in Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Denmark, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico and Russia.

Earlier this week, Chinese authorities gave “This Is It” one of 20 slots the nation reserves annually for foreign pics.

“We’re very excited about the international response so far,” Blake said. “We think the simultaneous premieres will be very popular.”

Rivals say it’s difficult to issue forecasts on how “This Is It” will draw, given the dearth of comparative concert films and the two-week window for its run. Disney’s “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus — Best of Both Worlds” drew $65 million domestically last year but only $5 million in a limited international release.

Sony paid north of $50 million for the rights to “This Is It” in the wake of Jackson’s death. The pic covers the period from March through Jackson’s death on June 25 as the pop star rehearsed for his comeback series of shows at London’s O2 Arena.

Kenny Ortega, director of the stage show, is also directing the film, which is produced by Ortega, Randy Phillips and Paul Gongaware. John Branca and John McClain, the lawyers overseeing Jackson’s estate, are exec producers.

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