Monday, December 19, 2011

Judge approved a pay bump for Execs of Michael Jackson's Estate

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge approved a pay bump Monday for the executors of Michael Jackson's estate who turned the debt-ridden singer's portfolio into a business that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars since his death.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff allowed attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain to bill the estate separately for their professional services, which include entertainment-related legal counsel and use of a recording studio founded by Marvin Gaye.

Attorneys for Branca and McClain sought the change, saying the executors spend an increasing amount of time on Jackson's estate and have been paying legal expenses to Branca's firm out of their share of the earnings.

The men agreed in February 2010 to accept 10 percent of the gross entertainment-related earnings of the estate, minus money generated by Jackson's 50 percent interest in the Sony-ATV music catalog and earnings from "This Is It," a film compiled from the singer's final rehearsals.

The exclusions are huge revenue generators for the estate — the Sony-ATV catalog includes publishing rights to music by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and other stars. The executors also have been excluded an interest in Jackson's music, which has sold briskly since his death June 25 at age 50.

Since then, the estate has earned more than $310 million.

Branca and McClain have been earning closer to 7 percent of the estate's entertainment-related earnings, as the estate has become a "massive entertainment business enterprise," court filings state.

Branca and McClain said they are spending more time developing Jackson projects than anticipated, including music, video games and a touring Cirque-du-Soleil show that will eventually become a Las Vegas fixture.

Under the deal approved Monday, Branca's firm Ziffren Brittenham LLP will now receive 3 percent of entertainment-related income generated by Jackson's estate.

Estate attorney Howard Weitzman said the firm was performing work that would cost more than $2 million a year if it was being handled by another firm, and court filings state that a traditional entertainment estate would include additional managers and attorneys who would receive up to 30 percent of the estate's overall revenue.

There was no estimate for how much McClain's billings may be. He bought and restored Gaye's former Los Angeles studio in 1997, christening it Marvin's Room, and Jackson and other top singers have recorded music there.

The estate benefits Jackson's mother, Katherine, and the singer's three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket. They received an initial $30 million payment on the estate's proceeds earlier this year.

Attorneys for Katherine Jackson and the children had no objection to augmenting the compensation for Branca and McClain. Meg Lodise, who represents the children's interest, said, "It is quite clear that what they're proposing is going to be fair to the estate."

Weitzman told Beckloff that the estate has recently resolved creditors' claims worth at least $11 million and is working to resolve any other valid outstanding debts. Jackson died with an estimated $400 million in debts, but renewed interest in his music and career have fattened the estate's accounts, which listed $90 million in cash on hand in a September court filing.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Michael Jackson Is The Top Touring Act In America.

Another GREAT review. Im so proud.  I find it so awesome that a MJ concert without his physical presence still by passes all the top Artists today.  I attended last weeks performance on Dec 4th and was thrilled and delighted by all the sights and sounds. The show was amazing and I could feel Michael's presence through out the whole show.  He would have been so proud. ~ Qbee      

Why Michael Jackson Is The Top Touring Act In America

Sammy Davis, Jr. once said that “everything Michael Jackson does on stage is exactly right.” The King of Pop indeed left some big leather loafers to fill, but judging by the crowd’s reaction at MGM’s Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour is doing an admirable job.

Among those in attendance for Saturday night’s performance: Cee Lo Green, as well as Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles. Seated within view of the reporters assembled to chronicle the show, the couple laughed and smiled as acrobats and dancers swirled across the stage–zombies popping out of coffins, contortionists emerging from giant books, even a performer dressed as a giant white glove–all while a live band blasted out the soundtrack beneath Jackson’s soaring vocals.

“We have all done our best to make this a celebration of his essence in his absence,” musical director Greg Phillinganes told me shortly after the show’s debut. “His passion for humanity … his commitment to excellence, his flair for the big show, we’ve tried to incorporate all those factors.”

Immortal is the highest-grossing live show in the country for the second week in a row, bringing in just shy of $2 million per night in Vegas. That’s over half a million dollars more than the next-highest earner, Taylor Swift, according to concert data provider Pollstar.It’s all the more impressive given that the Jackson show has been parked at the 8,500-seat Mandalay Bay Theatre for much of December; Swift has been playing arenas more than twice that size, as Immortal will soon be doing when resumes its trek across the North America.

An international leg is set to follow in late 2012. A joint venture between the Michael Jackson estate and Cirque du Soleil, Immortal opened in October and is already approaching $100 million in ticket sales. That should come as no surprise, given the extraordinary spectacle that audiences witness with each performance.

The show begins with a spotlight illuminating a mime clad in all white; his shell-toed sneakers and backwards hat make him look more b-boy than sad clown. As he cozies up to an image of Michael Jackson that fills a giant video screen at the back of the stage, the pictures melts away to reveal the band, and a troupe of dancers streams onto the stage.The mime serves as a guide throughout the performance, starting with Jackson’s early years and the song “Have You Seen My Childhood.” There’s a miniature hot air balloon and a Jackson Five montage complete with dancers dressed as Marlon, Tito, Jermaine, Jackie and Michael–oversized afros included. As the show continues, a replica of the Neverland gates rolls out, followed by performers dressed as Bubbles the Chimp and some of the other animals that once resided in Jackson’s private zoo.

Next comes the “Smooth Criminal” segment. The screens behind the stage turn black-and-white, revealing a video of Jackson outsmarting a series of detectives as they try to track him down. All the while, tommy gun-toting dancers decked out in fedoras and pinstriped suits mimic and elaborate upon Jackson’s moves, culminating in a flurry of pyrotechnics and mock gunfire that leaves only one dancer standing.

Perhaps the most impressive is the scene that comes next. The surviving gangster rips off her white suit to reveal nothing more than a shimmering bikini–and proceeds to ascend a slim tube that extends 30 feet or so into the air. Upon reaching the top she launches into an aerial pole-dance, contorting herself into positions that would seem impossible even on solid ground. At some point, she manages to hold herself perpendicular to the structure, supported by nothing besides her own strength.

Pushing the boundaries of the human body are trademarks of Cirque du Soleil, and that’s one of the many examples in which Immortal lives up to its lofty expectations (There’s also a scene where one acrobat lifts a partner into the air using only a strap hanging from his mouth; in another, a green dancer folds herself into a pretzel-shape and walks on her hands). There’s a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor, too: at one point, Michael Jackson’s trademark black loafers appear as Mini Cooper-sized characters, each manned by a single dancer.

Though Immortal pays homage to Jackson’s biggest hits–”Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Man in the Mirror,” to name a few–it also showcases some of Jackson’s later work, including the environmental anthem “Earth Song” and the oddly prescient “They Don’t Care About Us.” The latter of features scores of stomping robots with dollar signs emblazoned on their metallic chests, an idea dreamed up years before the birth of Occupy Wall Street.

Immortal features quite a few mashups of Jackson’s music, so it’s only fitting that the show ends with a parade of dancers hoisting flags that bear the combined symbols of various nations.

The production’s narrative arc does jump around a bit, as one might expect given the diverse nature of Jackson’s oeuvre. But Immortal’s architects managed to connect everything in a generally coherent manner–quite an achievement, given the staggering array of individual songs and mashups that made the final cut.

At any rate, the show has clearly passed the necessary tests in Vegas. Plans are already in the works to renovate the Mandalay Bay Theatre, which currently houses the Lion King, to accommodate a modified version of Immortal in time for a 2013 opening. If this month’s run is any indication, it should be a bonanza for MGM, Cirque du Soleil and the Jackson estate.

Though Jay-Z and Beyonce ducked out as the performers were taking their final bows on Saturday night, it’s clear that another superstar–Michael Jackson–will be staying in Las Vegas for quite some time.