Woodstock 50, the planned 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, has survived another day, with a victory in a New York court on Wednesday. But the festival still faces steep hurdles to proceed as intended in August.
Last week, the producers of the beleaguered festival requested an emergency injunction against its former investor, an arm of the Japanese advertising giant Dentsu, which had pulled its funding and publicly declared Woodstock 50 canceled. In their filing, Woodstock 50’s organizers asked the State Supreme Court in Manhattan to order Dentsu to return nearly $18 million that it had withdrawn from a festival bank account.
On Wednesday, Justice Barry R. Ostrager ruled that Dentsu did not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival, according to the contract the parties signed in November. But in a blow to the festival producers, the judge also said that their case “falls woefully short” of proving that its former financier should return the $18 million.
The decision gives Woodstock 50 — whose partners include Michael Lang, one of the producers of the original festival in 1969 — a measure of vindication. But there is no guarantee that they will be able to stage the event, which was planned for Aug. 16 to 18 in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
In their petition, the producers said that they urgently needed as much as $9 million to move forward, and that necessary permits for the site were still not secured. The litigation also revealed harsh disputes among Woodstock 50’s partners over crucial issues like ticket sales, capacity and the readiness of the site. Many talent agents have been skeptical about whether the festival will occur at all.
In statements after the ruling, both sides claimed victory.
“We have always relied on the truth and have never lost faith that the festival would take place,” Mr. Lang said. “Woodstock 50 will be an amazing and inspiring festival experience.”
Dentsu, which has maintained that it canceled the festival because of delays and problems that had convinced it that Woodstock 50 could not go on as planned, said it felt “vindicated” by the judge’s ruling about the disputed funds, according to a company spokeswoman, who added, “At this time we do not intend to further invest in the festival due to the issues noted by the court, as well as the compressed time frame, and multiple health and safety concerns.”
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