A judge tentatively ruled in favor of a music producer and against the heirs of Jimi Hendrix in a spat over a deal for a proposed film and soundtrack drawn from European concerts in 1969 that centered on how widely the picture would be distributed.
Los Angeles Superior court Judge Mark Mooney issued a preliminary decision Thursday in favor of Gerald Goldstein that rejected the plaintiff’s claim for rescission of contract. The estate representative, Janie Hendrix, maintained that there would have been no agreement if she knew Goldstein would not approve any distribution deal that did not include a minimum of 2,000 theaters.
“In fact, the evidence is to the contrary,” Mooney wrote in his eight- page ruling. “Goldstein had always expressed his view that he wanted a wide release for the international fan base. Goldstein wanted to make the best deal and get on as many screens possible.”
Mooney heard testimony in the non-jury trial in October and then took the case under submission.
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 stated.
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 stated. 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, the suit stated.
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, plaintiff’s attorney Edwin McPherson said.
But Mooney found that Goldstein never insisted that there had to be a minimum of 2,000 screens and a $20 million budget for the film in order for him to go through with the project.
“It was Goldstein’s understanding that the number of screens would be dependent on the amount of third-party financing that could be raised,” Mooney wrote. “It was not a fixed number, but subject to a future contingency.”
While it was unlikely Goldstein could get the financing for the wide release he envisioned, he was not given the chance to try and get the money raised, Mooney found
“Plaintiff’s act of refusing to extend the agreement … effectively put an end to any chance Goldstein may have had to raise the necessary financing,” Mooney wrote.
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 in his opening statement of the trial.
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.
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.
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.
— City News Service