The film was the No. 1 Halloween thriller domestically with a $21.3 million opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Paramount's low-budget horror sensation "Paranormal Activity," slipped to No. 2 with $16.5 million, lifting its total to $84.8 million.
"This Is It" raised its domestic total to $32.5 million. The movie pulled in $68.5 million overseas, including $10.4 million in Japan, $6.3 million in Germany, $5.8 million in France and $3.2 million in China.
"He's just loved everywhere on the planet," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "It doesn't matter if it's Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, South America. Every continent in the world loved him and his music."
In Great Britain, where Jackson had planned a marathon series of 50 London concerts starting last July, the movie earned $7.6 million.
"This Is It" captures Jackson in behind-the-scenes performances in the weeks before his death last June, as he rehearsed his biggest hits for the London shows.
"This Is It" originally was scheduled for a theatrical run of only two weeks. The studio has extended it a few more weeks domestically, leaving it in theaters through Thanksgiving weekend, one of the year's busiest moviegoing times.
Sony plans to extend the run of "This Is It" overseas on a country-by-country basis, with most territories probably getting one to three weeks of extra playing time, Bruer said.
The studio paid $60 million for film rights to Jackson's rehearsal footage, an investment the movie recouped in days.
"They bet $60 million on this and got $101 million in just five days," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "It was a gamble and a bet that paid off."
The movie fell far short of last year's $31.1 million opening weekend domestically for "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert." But Bruer said "This Is It" has a shot at surpassing the $65.3 million domestic total during the entire run of Cyrus' movie, which tops the all-time charts for music documentaries.
Worldwide, "This Is It" already has shot past Cyrus' concert film. Cyrus mainly appeals to American teens, and her movie got only a limited release overseas, where it took in about $5 million to give the film a global total of just over $70 million.
"This Is It" played in 3,481 theaters domestically, about five times the number for Cyrus' movie. But "Best of Both Worlds" ran in 3-D, for which theaters typically charge a few dollars more.
And Cyrus' young fans are an audience segment that tends to rush out to see movies over opening weekend, the movie doing nearly half its business in the first few days.
Sony hopes for a longer shelf life for "This Is It," which drew older crowds that catch movies on their own schedule, with less regard for the opening-weekend frenzy. Fans older than 25 accounted for 62 percent of the audience, according to Sony.
While "Paranormal Activity" led Halloween's scary movies, an established horror franchise lost its fear factor as Lionsgate's "Saw VI" fell sharply in its second weekend after an anemic debut.
"Saw VI" came in at No. 5 this weekend with $5.6 million, raising its total to just $22.8 million after 10 days. Previous sequels in the serial-killer series all had topped $30 million during opening weekend alone.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com; final figures will be released Monday:
1. "Michael Jackson's This Is It," $21.3 million.
2. "Paranormal Activity," $16.5 million.
3. "Law Abiding Citizen," $7.3 million.
4. "Couples Retreat," $6.1 million.
5. "Saw VI," $5.6 million.
6. "Where the Wild Things Are," $5.1 million.
7. "The Stepfather," $3.4 million.
8. "Astro Boy," $3.04 million.
9. "Amelia," $3 million.
10. "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant," $2.8 million.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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