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December 19, 2014

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Michael Jackson film makes early Las Vegas debut

This is It’ shown Tuesday night to select audience, including Jackson’s father

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Special to the Sun/Eric Kabik/Retna Digital

Joe Jackson and the Jackson Family were honored with a star Tuesday night at the Brenden Theater at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas. The event coincided with an early screening of the new Michael Jackson documentary film, “This is It.”

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Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson, and Johnny Brenden, owner of Brenden Theaters, attend the Jackson Family Star dedication Tuesday night at the Brenden Theater at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas prior to screening of the new 'This is It' documentary film on Michael Jackson.

Las Vegas got a sneak peek of Michael Jackson’s final artistic creation Tuesday night.

“This is It” premiered at midnight across the country but privileged audiences in Las Vegas were given a few hours’ jump on the official opening time.

Two advance screenings were held at the Palms, following the dedication of a Celebrity Star at Brenden Theaters to the Jacksons' father, Joe Jackson, and the King of Pop’s famously talented siblings.

The Jackson family patriarch was in the audience for the 9 p.m. screening of “This is It” Tuesday, as were fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr., UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, dozens of MJ fan club members and other invited guests.

“I’m so proud to be here to see this movie,” Joe Jackson said, noting he hadn’t seen it yet.

Vegas DeLuxe Web site host Robin Leach, who served as emcee for the event, noted that virtually no one had seen the film before the midnight screening. While Leach is largely considered a Hollywood insider, he had seen only 12 minutes of the film earlier.

One of the few people who had seen it, he said, was Jackson’s longtime friend and confidant, Elizabeth Taylor.

“She saw it last week and said that it was an absolute chronicle. Not only of cinema history, but of a genius at work,” Leach said.

“This is It” is nearly two hours of documentary-style feature film. It serves as a video archive of Jackson’s last days and was shot during rehearsals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as the fallen performer prepared for what was to be his comeback.

Jackson died on June 25, less than three weeks before the first comeback concert was to take place.

The then-50-year-old star’s death was attributed to prescription drug complications and corresponding cardiac arrest.

In a twist of fate, the tour was slated to have the same name as the movie: “This is It.”

The 50-show residency at London’s O2 Arena was to open on July 13.

“Fortunately for all of us, when Michael started the process of building the ‘This is It’ show, everything was captured on videotapes,” Leach said Tuesday, noting, “Over 100 hours of video was recorded.”

Editors later used that footage, which was originally intended for Jackson’s personal archives and library, to create the film.

Sony Records subsidiary, Columbia Pictures, paid $60 million for rights to the footage, according to the Associated Press. What’s more, Jackson’s estate will receive 90 percent of the profits and the driving force behind the ill-fated live show, AEG Live, will receive the remaining 10 percent.

Yet most Jackson fans don’t care about the money. For them, it’s all about MJ.

“This is all about the genius of a musical superstar,” Leach said.

“This is It” will play in theaters coast to coast for the next two weeks. After that, though, that will be that.

In that way, the film serves as Jackson’s farewell tour.

Jackson’s father appeared humbled by last night’s fanfare.

“Michael was a great entertainer all over the world and he was liked all over the world,” Joe Jackson told the audience. “He just happened to be my son.”

Melissa Arseniuk writes about Las Vegas entertainment and celebrity events. She can be reached at 702-948-7823 or by e-mail at [email protected].