Court nixes cancellation bid for Woodstock 50
NEW YORK — The Woodstock 50 festival is back on after a court rebuffed an ex-investor's effort to cancel the anniversary extravaganza — but organizers will have to do without some $18 million, at least for now.
Manhattan judge Barry Ostrager ruled Wednesday that the festival's former chief backer, Amplifi Live, couldn't single-handedly call off the August show, but also doesn't have to put the $18 million back into it. The money dispute and other issues are poised for arbitration.
Organizers celebrated the ruling, which came after dueling claims about whether the festival was on or off.
Amplifi, meanwhile, said it felt vindicated by the judge's ruling on the $18 million.
The event is planned for Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and is billed as a "once-in-a-lifetime" tribute to the 1969 concert that became a defining moment in pop music and a cultural touchstone.
Saying organizers had made a mess of planning, Amplifi cited safety concerns and announced April 29 that it was canceling the three-day concert.
The organizers' group, Woodstock 50 LLC, retorted that Amplifi was undermining the show — which was still a go — and had snatched $18 million from the festival's bank account. Amplifi, an arm of Japan-based marketing firm Dentsu, said it just reclaimed what was left of the $49 million it put in.
After a hearing this week, the judge said Wednesday that Amplifi presented "convincing testimony" that it was trying to stem its losses from a festival that was facing significant hurdles with just three months to go.
While over 80 acts have been booked, production company Superfly dropped out this month after tangling with organizers over how many people the Watkins Glen International racetrack could accommodate. Organizers envisioned 150,000, but Superfly said 65,000 was the "safe and appropriate capacity."
Ticket sales have been delayed, permits are still in the works and major venue improvements — including roads and a temporary water system — need to be made, according to court documents and testimony.
The judge said arbitration might ultimately determine that Amplifi was within its rights to take control of the festival, but ruled the investor "does not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival" under its contract with Woodstock 50 LLC.
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