LOS ANGELES – Sony thinks its new Michael Jackson documentary could be a contender for best picture.
Spokesman Steve Elzer said Thursday that the studio will submit “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” for Academy Awards consideration this year.
It missed the deadline to be considered for a 2009 documentary Oscar, but the film about the late King of Pop’s preparations for a series of comeback concerts will be eligible in several other categories at the Academy Awards, including sound, film editing, director and best picture.
“This Is It” opened worldwide Wednesday and has already earned $20.1 million at the box office, along with praise from critics and fans who say it restores Jackson’s reputation as a world-class entertainer.
Director Kenny Ortega, a longtime Jackson collaborator who was overseeing his concert comeback, crafted the nearly two-hour film from more than 100 hours of footage recorded during rehearsals for the London shows, which were to have begun in July. Jackson died June 25 at age 50.
“What we did here was focus on telling a good story and creating a film for the fans really enabling them to understand what Michael Jackson had dreamed for them,” Ortega said Wednesday.
He added it was his hope “the audience for this film will grow and that as many people come to see it as possible because I think that it’s a wonderful story about a brilliant man. … Awards, Oscars, that’s all great wishful thinking.”
It may be more than wishful, said Steven Gaydos, executive editor of the Hollywood trade paper Variety and a self-described cynic. With the Academy Awards best-picture slate expanded to 10 films this year rather than the traditional five, “This Is It” could find itself among the contenders, he said.
To qualify, the film must complete a seven-day run in Los Angeles County and filmmakers would need to “submit the proper paperwork,” said Leslie Unger, spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Oscars.
Sony, which paid $60 million for the global film rights, plans to keep “This Is It” in theaters for just over two weeks. Elzer said the studio will submit it for consideration for best picture “and other appropriate categories.” He wouldn’t specify which ones.
Entering it in the Oscar race this year means “This Is It” cannot be considered in the documentary category next year.
The movie includes plenty of music, but none of it is eligible for Oscar consideration because it wasn’t created specifically for the film.
Ortega, a veteran director, producer and choreographer who counts TV’s “High School Musical” among his credits, could also find himself in contention for a best-director nod, Gaydos said.
“He did a masterful job putting this whole thing together,” he said. “It was so powerful and interesting, so creative and well-done, I think he should be considered… Kenny just won over all these critics like me with Michael Jackson that anything interesting could go on with this guy.”
The film can’t be considered for a Golden Globe. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the annual ceremony, doesn’t permit feature documentaries to enter, said spokesman Michael Russell.
Ortega said an Oscar nod would be a fitting recognition of Jackson’s last work.
“He deserves one,” he said. “Come on people.”