This Is It was a planned residency show of fifty concerts by Michael Jackson to be held at The O2 Arena in London. They were scheduled to begin in July 2009 and continue through to March 2010. However, with all concerts sold out, Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest and died due to an overdose of propofol and benzodiazepine drugs, less than three weeks/18 days before the first concert kicked off. Jackson officially announced the concerts at a press conference held inside The O2 Arena stated that This Is It was going to be his final series of concerts. AEG Live, the concert promoters, released a promotional video that took up an entire commercial break, setting a record for ITV. The shows were to be Jackson's first major series of concerts since the HIStory World Tour finished in 1997, and had been cited as one of the year's most important musical events. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates alone would have earned the singer approximately £50 million.
Originally only 10 concerts were announced, but the tickets were sold out in less than an hour and the public demand for tickets resulted in 40 more concerts being added, making 50 in total. Ticket sales broke several records and AEG Live stated that Jackson could have sold more dates. Jackson's album sales increased following the announcement. In preparation for the concert series, the pop singer had been collaborating with numerous high profile figures, such as fashion designer Christian Audigier, choreographer Kenny Ortega and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. Prior to Jackson's death, Allgood Entertainment sued the entertainer for $40 million, claiming that he had breached an exclusivity agreement with them by agreeing to the This Is It concerts. The case was later dismissed.
In light of Jackson's death, AEG Live offered either full refunds to all ticket holders or a special souvenir ticket designed by the entertainer. The cancelled shows, the record-breaking ticket sales and the potential for a world tour, made Jackson's shows "the greatest concert[s] that never happened. Columbia Pictures acquired the footage of the show rehearsals and made a concert film titled Michael Jackson's This Is It. The Jackson estate received 90% of the profit made while the remaining 10% went to AEG Live. Columbia Pictures guaranteed at least $60 million for the rights. To coincide with the release of the concert footage, an accompanying album was released.
Promotion and significanceEdit
The announcement of Jackson's first 10 performances was made by the singer himself, during a press conference at The O2 Arena on March 5, 2009. As many as 7,000 fans and 350 reporters awaited the singer's arrival, many donning Jackson-related clothing. The singer commented at the conference, "I just wanted to say that these will be my final show performances in London. When I say this is it, it really means this is it", adding that it was his "final curtain call", although he may have just been referring to performing in London. Organizers touted the residency as, "dramatic shows [that] promise an explosive return with a band of the highest calibre, a state-of-the-art stage show and incredible surprise support acts". Hours before the press conference, promotional posters for the residency were displayed around London. Further promotion took up an entire commercial break period on ITV London during Dancing on Ice, the first time this has ever happened for a musical artist. The advert, which cost £1 million to air, was viewed by 11 million people.
The shows, Jackson's first significant concert events since the HIStory World Tour in 1997, had been cited as one of the year's most important musical events, and as the greatest comeback in the history of pop. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates would earn the singer approximately £50 million (about US$80.1 million).The Guardian characterized the announced 10 concerts as an "astonishing comeback for a man who in recent years has been dogged by controversy", adding that the entertainer still had "enormous commercial clout". The Evening Standard stated that the deal was the "showbiz coup of the decade" for AEG Live, while The Independent remarked that the finalized 50 concerts would provide London with a "much-needed" economic boost. Joe Cohen, chief executive of Seatwave, told BBC 6 Music that the shows would generate £1 billion for the economy.
Some websites offered early tickets, which the Association of Secondary Ticket Agents warned were fake. "We are warning people not to buy tickets that are not yet on sale because it is unlikely that they will receive those tickets", announced the organization's chief, Graham Burns. He concluded, "It's impossible when the dates haven't been announced to be selling tickets for something when there are no announced dates". Jackson's official website allowed fans to register early for a "pre-sale" draw. Some fans had difficulty applying, as the website could not deal with the large number of registrations—reportedly up to 16,000 applications a second. In the space of 24 hours, nearly a million people from around the world registered for pre-sale tickets, enough to fill the venue 50 times over.Tickets that had not even been printed were selling on auction website eBay for £300. Sales of Jackson's albums increased following the press conference. Overnight, sales of Off the Wall (Album) rose 200%, Bad (Album) rose 110%, Dangerous(Album) rose 165% and Thriller 25 rose 155%
The two-day pre-sale began on March 11, and 40 extra dates were added to meet high demand—five of these dates were reserved in their entirety for the public sale. More than 1.5 million fans caused two sites offering pre-sale tickets to crash within minutes of going online. In the space of two hours, 190,000 tickets were sold. Two million people tried to buy pre-sale tickets in the space of 18 hours. Veronica Schmidt of The Times stated of the reception, "Michael Jackson has floored his critics", while organizers proclaimed it a "cultural phenomenon". It was announced that Jackson would break the record for number of shows performed by an artist at a single venue, which had been set by Prince, who hosted a residency at the same arena for his 21 Nights in London concerts. According to Jackson's website, the following records were or would have been broken: "The biggest audience ever to see an artist in one city", "The most amount of people to attend a series of arena shows", "The fastest ticket sales in history". Randy Phillips acknowledged that Jackson could have sold out even more dates, but this would have conflicted with other career plans that the singer had. On March 13, the other 50% of seats for dates 1–45 and all the seats for dates 46–50 went on sale to the general public. Within a few hours, all 50 dates had sold out. At this stage, the sales of King of Pop were up 400% and the sales of Thriller were up 200%. Tickets appeared on eBay for as much as £10,000.
Preparation and concert detailsEdit
The 50-concert run was originally scheduled to start on July 8, 2009 and conclude on February 24, 2010. Each of the shows would have been performed at The O2 Arena in London, which has a capacity of 23,000. New York-based fashion designer Zaldy served as head costumer, creating ten of Jackson's stage looks while the other six were created by his longtime costumers, Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins. Jay Ruckel from La Crasia Gloves recreated Jackson's iconic single glove for the concerts. The costumes he was to wear during the shows were encrusted with 300,000 Swarovski crystals. In May 2009, thousands of dancers flew in from all around the world to audition for Jackson, who helped select the 11 finalists in person. Kenny Ortega, who had collaborated with Jackson previously, was to work on the overall design and direction of concerts. Ortega said that the final product would have been a "theatrical musical experience". According to Randy Philips, £13 million was to be spent on producing the concerts, which would have included 18–22 songs and 22 different sets. There also would have been aerial dancing similar to routines by Cirque du Soleil. Carla Ferrigno told Reuters that her husband Lou had been helping Jackson train in advance of the shows. Jackson and Ferrigno had previously worked together.
On May 20, it was announced that the first concert would be pushed back five days to July 13 and three other July dates would be rescheduled for March 2010. AEG Live said that the delay was necessary because more time was needed for dress rehearsals. The revised schedule called for 27 shows between July 13 and September 29, 2009, followed by a three-month break, before resuming in the new year with 23 more shows between January 7 and March 6, 2010. Some fans petitioned for the reversal of AEG Live's decision. In late June, several hundred seats for each of the dates were put on sale. These seats were held back until production logistics were worked out.
It was suggested that after the London concerts, Jackson might head to Australia, Europe, India, China, Hong Kong and Japan before moving on to North America. Randy Phillips, the CEO of AEG Live, told The LA Times that Australia was part of Michael Jackson's international tour plans.
According to Jermaine Jackson's 2011 book You Are Not Alone: Michael Through a Brother's Eyes , after the London O2 concerts finished, Jackson was planning to arrange two more tours with AEG Live as well as a new halftime show performance during one of the future Super Bowl games to overshadow his own legendary halftime show performance at the Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 and a final reunion with his brothers as The Jackson 5 to give their mother a chance to see her sons perform live together before she passed away. Afterwards, he planned to perform one last tour and officially retire from musical entertainment, planning to move ahead to possibly directing his own film ideas, such as making a feature-length based on his 1982 song Thriller and the music video of the same name.
In Conrad Murray's manslaughter trial, David Walgren stated another one of Jackson's future plans was to open a children's hospital. This was heard in an audio tape Conrad Murray played of Jackson under the influence of propofol on May 10, 2009, one month before Jackson died. His voice is barely recognisable in the recording, but he can be clearly heard saying that he wanted to build the greatest children's hospital in the world and name it after himself: The Michael Jackson's Children's Hospital. Walgren also stated that while the tour was happening, Jackson wanted to buy an estate with streams, horses and animals so his three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket could live normal lives as their father performed the concerts, as he was photographed looking for a house in the United Kingdom with his children. Walgren also said that the tour would begin that summer, and Jackson could take his children out of school and bring them with him so they could see him perform in London.
If the concerts had happened, the following would have been the possible set list for the show.