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Studio pushes up Jackson film, Ortega to direct

 A fan holds a tattered photo Michael Jackson outside a public memorial at the Apollo Theater in New York, June 30, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The studio behind the Michael Jackson film "This Is It" on Thursday advanced its release by two days to October 28, anticipating huge demand for the movie of his final performance rehearsals just days before his death.

Sony Pictures Entertainment said choreographer Kenny Ortega, who worked with the pop star throughout his career, will direct the movie, which will combine footage of the singer's rehearsals for the "This Is It" concerts that were to have begun in London last month.

"Fans will see Michael as they have never seen him before -- this great artist at work," Ortega said in a statement, calling the footage "raw, emotional, moving and powerful."

Jackson died of cardiac arrest on June 25 at age 50 only weeks before he was to have started the concerts. He was rehearsing almost daily and the show's promoters, AEG Live, were shooting digital video of the practice sessions.

Following his death, AEG Live and co-executors of Jackson's estate reached a deal with Sony to make and release the movie.

The studio said Ortega has more than 100 hours of footage and that the movie will offer Jackson fans "a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer."

A planned 3-D sequence for "This Is It" will not make it into the final reel, said a source familiar with the studio's efforts.

Sony Pictures had previously set a release date of October 30, but based on expected demand, Sony advanced the film's debut.

Tickets go on sale September 27 for what will be a limited, two-week release of "This Is It" around the globe.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

 
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