"This is more than a tribute, this is Michael's last masterpiece," Randy Phillips, CEO of AIG Live, told TIME. "The obvious date is August 29 it's his birthday, and that's what we're shooting for." Phillips says the show would include "the brothers, possibly Janet" and the existing band against a backdrop of hours of Jackson video. The location: London's 02 Arena, where the tour was originally supposed to start on July 13.
While talks with the family are still very preliminary, their initial response to involvement with the show has been "excellent," says Phillips. "They like the idea of taking their brother's last work and showing it to the world," he says. (The Jackson family spokesperson declined to comment on this story.) Phillips says that the Rev. Al Sharpton even mentioned Aug. 29 to him as a good date over drinks at the Four Seasons.
Phillips, who plans to sit down this weekend with Jackson's choreographer Kenny Ortega to "figure it out conceptually," envisions it as a singular "pay-per-broadcast vehicle."
"This show would be This Is It, " he says. "The only thing missing would be Michael Jackson in person."
The producers had spent $15 million filming 130 hours of footage of Jackson's rehearsals, including three songs in 3D, which would be incorporated into the concert.
As for Michael Jackson's reigning final show Tuesday's world-televised memorial cost estimates came in significantly less than expected. But the question remains: who's going to pick up the tab? The city of Los Angeles spent about $1.4 million on all aspects of the memorial, city officials announced yesterday. This includes cleanup, traffic-diversion costs and overtime pay for the more than 4,000 police officers asked to secure various venues. That's good news in view of the $2.5 million $4 million estimates, and it's less than June's Los Angeles Lakers' pride parade, which cost $2 million.
A big reason for the relatively low price tag: the lack of unticketed fans showing up at the Staples Center. City officials and memorial organizers had feared thousands would descend on Los Angeles to pay tribute to Jackson. "People listened to the warning and just stayed home," Michael Roth, vice president of communications for AEG Live told TIME. "There were less than 1,000 fans down here." Due to the unexpectedly low turnout, extra police officers were dismissed and there was simply less of a mess to clean up.
Still, the balance remains to be settled. The L.A. attorney's office is investigating how the cash-strapped city got stuck with the bill and how it can press other parties to chip in. Officials have reached out to members of the Jackson family, though their response is as yet unknown.
A municipal website seeking donations from the public received $17,000 before experiencing "frequent and prolonged server crashes," according to a press release issued by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office. The mayor's office has asked fans to revisit the website now that it is up and running again. Roth says the city reached out to AEG to chip in as well. "I know they contacted us initially," he said. "I couldn't tell you how much further it has progressed."
AEG's Phillips pointed out the company spent as much as the city (about $1.2 million $1.5 million) putting on the free event for the public, covering ticketing expenses and the like. The company could defray some of its own costs with memorial DVD or CD sales, but Phillips declined to discuss specifics. "We have had a lot of calls about that," he says of memorial DVDs.
Meanwhile, the location of Michael Jackson's remains and where they will ultimately end up are also unanswered questions. Jackson's gold-plated coffin was on view July 7 on the floor of the Staples Center. Now contradictory media reports have the body headed for its final resting place at either Forest Lawn Cemetery or Michael's Neverland ranch.
Mark Miller, a former manager of the Jacksons, says the mischievous Michael would have enjoyed the guessing game this new riddle has inspired in the press.
"Second only to a funeral procession down Main Street of Disneyland, Michael would probably be delighted with his family playing a media game of Where's Waldo? with his casket," Miller told TIME. "Michael would absolutely have loved it."