The family of the pop star had filed a wrongful death suit in 2010 against entertainment giant AEG. The nation’s second-largest concert promoter, which has its hands in more than 100 global arenas and stadiums and numerous sports teams, hired Michael Jackson for a massive comeback tour that was to launch in summer 2009. Jackson died that June of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, and his doctor Conrad Murray eventually was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is serving two years in prison. The verdict concludes the 21-week trial that captivated the likes of HLN and truTV, with the jury ruling just now that while AEG hired Murray, the company did not contribute to Jackson’s death. AEG’s lawyers argued it had no way of knowing Murray was a risk when he was hired. “I am pleased that the jury recognized that this lawsuit was without merit, and the entire AEG family looks forward to putting this unfortunate chapter behind us,” said AEG president and CEO Dan Beckerman in a release. The final rehearsals from the mega-tour that never was were captured in Sony’s 2009 documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It, which grossed $261 million worldwide.
Related: ‘This Is It’ Hits $200M Globally
A tale of Big Media is coming to cable. Continuing its recent moves toward original scripted series, Bravo is developing the drama Moguls. The series will follow the professional and personal challenges of a media boss and his family. “Moguls will be similar in tone to The West Wing,” an insider says. While the series may or may not have the walking-and-talking motif that characterized Aaron Sorkin’s political drama, Moguls will have a media boss of its own: Michael Jackson, the former chairman of Universal Television and former CEO of the UK’s Channel 4, will serve as executive producer on the show. Love And Other Drugs screenwriter Charles Randolph and playwright Sharyn Rothstein are working on a pilot script now, we are told. In her TV debut, Rothstein will be Moguls’ supervising producer. Randolph will serve as an executive producer; he also is working on the Cold War pilot for HBO The Missionary, a spy thriller developed by Randolph and friend (and bestselling New Yorker writer) Malcolm Gladwell.
Related: Bravo Orders First Scripted Pilots: Dramas ‘The Jones’ And ‘Rita’
ABC has acquired TV rights to Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson documentary Bad 25, which marks the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking album. The network said it would air a version of the documentary at Thanksgiving but will announce details later. Lee worked with the Michael Jackson estate to cull rarely or never seen footage for Bad 25 which is also screening at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. ABC said the movie will provide an in-depth exploration of the album and tour. In addition to Jackson’s confidants, choreographers, musicians and collaborators, Lee interviewed director Martin Scorsese, Joe Pytka and others who worked on Bad videos. Bad also marked the third and final album collaboration for Jackson and Quincy Jones. Among numerous distinctions, the album has generated over 45 million units in sales. The album’s 25th Anniversary will be celebrated September 18 when Legacy/Epic Records releases deluxe editions of the album.
Nearly a year after Sony Pictures and the PlayStation Network faced targeted hacking attacks, it has emerged that Sony Music had its own breach in the US in 2011. Two British men appeared in a UK court on Friday over charges they illegally downloaded more than 50,000 Sony Music files – most of them by the late Michael Jackson. The duo was arrested last May, just a month after Sony faced a massive breach to its PlayStation Network and a month before website Lulz Security claimed it had broken into SonyPictures.com. The alleged British hackers are said to have stolen the Jackson music, including many unreleased songs, and works by other artists. In 2010, Sony and the Jackson estate signed the biggest recording deal in history giving the company the rights to sell the singer’s entire back catalog along with previously unreleased tracks. Sony is said to have realized the songs had been compromised during routine monitoring of Jackson fansites and hacking forums. The Britsh men have denied the allegations and are due to stand trial next January.
UPDATE 1:17 PM: The TV news community swarmed over the guilty verdict against Dr. Conrad Murray, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson in June 2009. CBS/2, NBC/4, KTLA/5, ABC/7, KCAL/9, Fox/11, CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Fox News and truTV all covered the verdict live from the Los Angeles Criminal Court in Downtown L.A. Murray had no visible reaction to the news, while cameras showed celebration among the sign-wielding crowd gathered outside the court. In the wake of the verdict, those hoping for conviction were interviewed all over the local news dial, while on cable news pundits and legal experts held court with opinion and reaction. The exceptions were Fox News, which quickly went back to its scheduled news rotation, and KCOP/13 locally, which opted to stick with its Bewitched rerun. Murray was handcuffed in court; his sentencing date is November 29.
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Sony Pictures attorneys had argued that jurors in Michael Jackson’s manslaughter case should not see unreleased footage from the studio’s Jackson documentary This Is It in order to determine the state of the singer’s health before his death in June 2009. Now the judge in the case against Conrad Murray has agreed; after watching several hours of the footage, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said that “there is absolutely nothing in those materials that could have been of assistance to the defense.” That’s after more than 100 hours of raw footage was screened at Sony by lawyers, the studio said. It’s good news for Sony, which wanted to protect the “significant potential future commercial value of this unreleased footage.” At stake was rehearsal footage that can be used for follow-ups to This Is It, which has grossed $261.2 million worldwide since its release in October 2009.
Meanwhile, the Jackson family has announced a tribute concert for Oct. 8 in Wales, though details remain sketchy. Tickets for Michael Forever — The Tribute Concert will go on sale in August via Global Event Live, which plans to stream the concert online. Jury selection in Jackson’s manslaughter trial begins Sept. 8, which likely places the concert during the court case.
Feature and video director Mark Romanek has signed with CAA. Romanek, who just directed the Fox Searchlight adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go with Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, had been repped by WME. Romanek previously directed One Hour Photo and Static, and has helmed music videos with the likes of David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM and Madonna.
EXCLUSIVE: Michael Jackson, who reportedly earned $275 million posthumously over the past year for his estate, isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I’m told that GK Films is in active negotiations to acquire a package for a film that is being fashioned around his groundbreaking hit song Thriller. The film, which has been quietly shopped over the past several weeks by Real Effects Entertainment, has Kenny Ortega attached to direct, and The Hangover scribe Jeremy Garelick to write the screenplay. While GK is in the driver’s seat, I’m told that Fox 2000, Mandate/Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment are all in the mix on what will shape up as a pricey rights deal, but which will turn out to be a film budgeted at under $50 million. Plot is being kept under wraps but I understand it has to do with the song’s folklore, involving Vincent Price and the town he grew up in. All of this deal making is subject to a deal being completed with Jackson’s estate, but that has been in the works for some time and is expected to be sealed. Thriller songwriter Rod Temperton is also in the mix. On top of the Thriller deal, I’ve heard that Cirque du Soleil is in talks to do two live shows based on Jackson’s music, and that Montecito partners Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock are looking to do a feature about Jackson’s younger years. Read More »