If you felt like the 90-minute Michael Jackson memorial, complete with video clips, music performances and a worldwide, live airing on more channels than carry a presidential address, was one long infomercial for this fall's blockbuster concert film This Is It (which made $200 million worldwide at last count) you're not alone. But the real stinger is that a city report issued Friday ups the taxpayer cost for the memorial to $3.2 million from a previous estimate of $1.4 million.
The new tally, according to KTLA News, includes $1.2 million for salaries and $2 million for overtime for the 3,968 police officers assigned to the event. (
We guess, then, that the price doesn't include the cost of Department of Transportation traffic officers, who patrolled, controlled and shut down nearby streets. Nor does it appear to cover the cost of clean up and street sweeping. UPDATE: It does include such costs).
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It feels like a burn: AEG is set to recoup 10 percent of the
proceeds profits from This Is It, the film based on rehearsals at the very AEG-owned Staples Center where the Jackson memorial was held. That adds up to $20 millions so far.
It's interesting to recall that a week ahead of the July 7 public memorial, rehearsal footage that would later become of the backbone of the film was leaked (or, rather, spread) to the media by AEG, the promoter that would have put on the subsequent, 50-date "This Is It" residency in London for which Jackson was preparing just before his death last summer. Seen in that context, the memorial feels like part of a marketing plan rather than a true hommage to the King of Pop.
One bright spot: The report states that tourists and fans drawn to the festivities, which included a few days of people mulling around and lining up near Staples Center, spent $4 million in the city. That added about $360,000 in sales tax to governments and agencies.
New City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has vowed to recoup all of the city's costs related to the memorial. Some leaders, including ex-Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton, have said the city should cover the price -- that stuff happens in a major metropolis, and city governments are there to take care of things. It's certainly true in the case of riots, unpredictable protests, earthquakes and other unknowns. But in the context of AEG's shameless profiteering, you have to wonder if we're not left holding the bag for one big red-carpet premier.