The film, which opened around the globe Tuesday and Wednesday has already earned rousing praise from fans and critics, who say it restores Jackson's reputation as a world-class entertainer.
Director Kenny Ortega, a longtime Jackson collaborator who was overseeing his London concert comeback, crafted the nearly two-hour film from more than 100 hours of footage recorded during rehearsals for the London shows, which were to have begun in July. Jackson died June 25 at age 50.
"What we did here was focus on telling a good story and creating a film for the fans, really enabling them to understand what Michael Jackson had dreamed for them," Ortega said Wednesday.
He added it was his hope "the audience for this film will grow and that as many people come to see it as possible because I think that it's a wonderful story about a brilliant man... Awards, Oscars, that's all great wishful thinking."
It may be more than wishful, said Steven Gaydos, executive editor of the Hollywood trade paper Variety and a self-described cynic. With the Academy Awards best-picture slate expanded to 10 films this year rather than the traditional five, "This Is It" could find itself among the contenders, he said.
To qualify, the film must complete a seven-day run in Los Angeles County and filmmakers would need to "submit the proper paperwork," said Leslie Unger, spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Oscars. The movie could also be considered in other categories such as sound, she said.
Sony, which paid $60 million for the global film rights, plans to keep "This Is It" in theaters for just over two weeks. The studio did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment about whether it planned to submit the film in any of the Oscar categories.
The film took in $2.2 million domestically from its first late-night screenings, setting it up for a strong shot at a No. 1 debut weekend. It is already well on its way to becoming a top-grossing music documentary.
Ortega, a veteran director, producer and choreographer who counts TV's "High School Musical" among his credits, could find himself in contention for a best-director nod, Gaydos said.
"He did a masterful job putting this whole thing together," he said. "It was so powerful and interesting, so creative and well-done, I think he should be considered... Kenny just won over all these critics like me with Michael Jackson that anything interesting could go on with this guy."
After completing a weeklong run, "This Is It" could also be eligible for Golden Globe awards consideration if it's submitted before the Nov. 6 deadline, said Michael Russell, a spokesman for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the annual ceremony.
Ortega said an Oscar nod would be a fitting recognition of Jackson's last work.
"He deserves one," he said. "Come on people."