The heirs of Jimi Hendrix and a music producer had a deal for a proposed film and soundtrack drawn from European concerts in 1969, but the producer had unrealistic expectations, an attorney for the rock icon’s estate told a judge Thursday.
In his opening statement in trial of the estate’s lawsuit against producer Gerald Goldstein, plaintiffs’ attorney Edwin McPherson said Goldstein thought the movie could rival the success of the Michael Jackson film “This is It.”
Goldstein, he said, wanted a $2 million budget to cover film print and advertising costs as well as a distribution on 2,000 screens.
“This is a great little film, but it’s not Michael Jackson and it’s not ‘Titanic,”‘ McPherson told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Mooney, who is hearing the nonjury trial.
But attorney Brent Blakely, on behalf of Goldstein, said the agreement came apart because of the conduct of the Hendrix heirs. He said they were more interested in pursuing CD sales and other merchandising opportunities than making a film good enough to be put in wide release and possibly win an Academy Award for best documentary.
“They pulled the rug out from under Mr. Goldstein and destroyed his ability to present his vision of what he thought the film would be like,” Blakely said. “This was Jerry’s piece of art, this was his masterpiece,” Blakely said.
The Hendrix concerts were in Austria, France and Germany and at Royal Albert Hall in London. They were recorded by Goldstein and the late producer Steve Gold with the intention of producing and distributing a motion picture about the performances, the suit states.
Hendrix died at age 27 in September 1970 of an accidental drug overdose. The estate’s breach-of-contract and fraud case was filed in May 2011, alleging the fraud and an entitlement to restitution.
After years of legal disputes between the two sides concerning ownership of the rights to the proposed motion picture and soundtrack, Hendrix’s estate approached Goldstein in 2002 to discuss completing the film together, the lawsuit says.
They entered an agreement that included restoring nearly 40,000 feet of footage from the concerts, rehearsals and backstage gatherings, and they agreed to find a distributor, according to the lawsuit.
Hendrix’s estate contributed more than half of the $2 million the project cost, the suit stated.
In September 2010, Sony made a final offer that the Hendrix heirs accepted, McPherson said.
“Everyone agrees it’s low, but everyone agrees it’s a start,” McPherson said.
But Goldstein went “AWOL” for three months and, when he resurfaced, he turned down the offer because the distributor was only proposing to show the film in six theaters, McPherson said.
Blakely said the Sony offer had an opt-out clause that Goldstein eventually felt compelled to exercise because the film deserved a better distribution deal.
“This was his one shot to make a great film,” Blakely said.
But the first witness blamed Goldstein for the unraveling of the project. John McDermott, an executive with Experience Hendrix, the business arm of the musician’s estate, said the heirs also preferred to have a wide distribution of the film, but were taken aback by Goldstein’s insistence on it. He said having Sony involved in the project would have helped ensure the film would be successful worldwide.
“It was critical to any chances we had to build this up higher than just a concert film release,” McDermott said.
Goldstein’s demands of Sony came as a surprise to Experience Hendrix, McDermott said.
“We were flabbergasted,” McDermott said. “We couldn’t believe it.”
The witness said that the chances of making significant money from CD and DVD sales have now largely slipped away because of changing technology. McDermott also said no other company has offered to distribute the film since the Sony deal collapsed.
Hendrix’s 43-year-old sister, Janie Hendrix, is the CEO of Experience Hendrix. She was adopted by Hendrix’s father, Al Hendrix, when she was a young girl and met her famous brother only a couple times before his death. She was present for the opening statements and may testify Friday.
The lawsuit asks that Goldstein be ordered to return all money the estate contributed to the film project and that the judge declare that the estate owns the movie’s soundtrack rights.
— City News Service
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