Cirque du Soleil signs with Jackson estate

Plans include touring show, Vegas gig and reality series

The push to maximize the value of Michael Jackson’s music continued Tuesday with the news that the late entertainer’s estate has pacted with Cirque du Soleil for a slate of projects including a touring arena show, a permanent Las Vegas production, a Vegas nightclub and a potential reality TV show.

First out of the gate will be the international touring show, set for the fall of 2011. The tour will play an extended run in Vegas in conjunction with Cirque partner MGM Mirage, with the permanent Vegas installation (also presented in partnership with MGM Mirage) to follow in late 2012. Venues will be announced later.

The touring show will be styled as a concert simulation, while the permanent production will be more theatrical, using 3D and holograms.

“We felt it was important to have a live show for Michael’s fans,” said attorney John Branca, who is co-executor of the Jackson estate with longtime music exec John McLain.

Jackson had mulled linking up with Cirque du Soleil, and visited the Cirque studio in Montreal in 2004, but plans didn’t get serious until six months ago. Cirque du Soleil prexy-CEO Daniel Lamarre said, “We could already tell there was a fit with our two brands.”

The Canadian firm produced the wildly successful music-themed show “The Beatles Love,” which has been running in its own dedicated venue at the Mirage in Vegas since June 2006. The Jackson show will have the biggest budget in Cirque history, said Lamarre, who did not offer a specific figure. “The Beatles Love” cost $175 million, while the current MGM Grand production “Ka” cost $220 million.

The Jackson estate and Cirque are also plotting Jackson-themed “lifestyle projects,” including a nightclub that will open concurrent with the Vegas production.

Jackson and Cirque reps say a reality TV series is in the talking stage. Skein would follow efforts to find a choreographer — who will be discovered through the series and work with two established choreographers — and dancers for the production.

The new deal follows a wave of high-profile Jackson releases that followed his sudden death last June.

Sony Pictures-distribbed doc “This Is It,” drawn from rehearsals for the musician’s O2 Arena shows, grossed more than $309 million worldwide and topped the DVD sales charts when it was released in February.

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