Jimi Hendrix Film Will Stay Under Wraps, for Now

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Historic, unseen footage of the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing at the Royal Albert Hall will remain unseen until a legal haze clears, a California appeals court ruled.

A three-judge panel on Monday affirmed L.A. Superior Court Judge Mark Mooney’s ruling that lead defendant The Last Experience did not violate a 2010 agreement to distribute a documentary film of the Jimi Hendrix Experience concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The Hendrix Experience performed two shows at the Albert Hall, on Feb. 18 and 24, 1969. The shows were filmed and recorded, but never released.

A contract signed by Hendrix’s manager with Steve Gold and co-defendant Gerald Goldstein granted both men the right to film the tour and use the footage for a concert film. The pair were to split the profits evenly.

Although recorded, the film never materialized, and in March 2010, the successors to the 1968 contract agreed to “‘jointly produce a feature-length film intended for theatrical release,’” Associate Justice Brian Hoffstadt wrote for the unanimous panel.

Plaintiff Experience Hendrix signed the contract as the successor to Jimi Hendrix, while Last Experience represented the successors to Goldstein, Gold and Hendrix’s manager.

Previous efforts to release the film ended in court battles, but the parties tried to move forward with the 2010 agreement, although “they ‘hated each other’s guts,’” Hoffstadt wrote.

The parties agreed the concerts’ audio and video footage were the property of both, and they would have equal say on creative issues and film distribution.

They also agreed to split the profits evenly, but only after Experience Hendrix recouped $4.1 million spent in UK courts to stop the London Times newspaper from distributing an audio bootleg copy of the concerts.

Experience Hendrix and Last Experience already agreed to have Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment distribute the film, which Last Experience was to deliver by June 30, 2010.

Upon delivery of the film, Sony Music had agreed to pay a $2 million advance, and another $500,000 to make film prints and marketing materials for distribution.

In exchange, Sony Music would get a 25 percent distribution fee, plus half of the profits after recouping its $500,000 advance for prints and advertising.

That deal fell through, and Experience Hendrix favored a second offer from Sony, under which the music giant would spend $750,000 to $1 million on print and advertising, in exchange for a 17.5 percent fee.

The film would have limited distribution, to up to 20 movie screens in five to 10 cities, which Experience Hendrix favored.

Goldstein, though, preferred a more extensive release to 1,500 theaters, plus a print and advertising budget of $20 million to $50 million, and the deal fell through.

Experience Hendrix sued Goldstein et al. in L.A. Superior Court in May 2011, accusing Goldstein of fraud by telling Experience Hendrix he would accept nothing less than a wide release of the film.

Experience Hendrix sought $4.1 million in restitution from its UK legal battle, plus sole rights to the footage of the Albert Hall shows.

Goldstein et al. filed a counter-complaint, accusing Experience Hendrix of breaches of contract, good faith and fair dealing, and intentional misrepresentation. Goldstein sought compensatory and punitive damages.

The trial court granted summary judgment to of Experience Hendrix on Goldstein’s counter claims, and Experience Hendrix’s complaint proceeded to a five-day bench trial.

The court refused to rescind the 2010 agreement, finding Goldstein did not hide his desire for wide release of the film, and did not insist on a distribution minimum.

The court found that Goldstein thought he had agreed to a sliding scale, in which Sony would distribute the film in wider release if Goldstein could come up with the cash to cover the costs.

“Both parties had an equal right to block the distribution of the film if they believed they could obtain a better deal,” and Goldstein acted reasonably tried to get a better deal that would benefit both parties, the trial court ruled.

The court also awarded Goldstein et al. $301,444 in attorney’s fees.

Experience Hendrix appealed the ruling and the attorney’s fees, saying that Goldstein had refused to approve the deal with Sony Pictures.

The appellate court on Monday rejected the appeal in an unpublished opinion, finding that the 2010 contract requires both parties to agree to any distribution offer.

“Goldstein’s vision for a wide release of the film may have been unrealistic and … not a ‘sound business decision,’” Hoffstadt wrote.

Hoffstadt said Goldstein’s effort “was not aimed at altering the terms of the 2010 agreement or at enriching Goldstein under the terms of any side agreement.”

Because Goldstein did not violate the 2010 agreement, the panel affirmed the award of attorney’s fees.

Justices Judith Ashmann-Gerst and Victoria M. Chavez concurred.

Experience Hendrix was represented by Robert Harrison and Christiane Kinney, of the LeClairRyan law firm in Alexandria, Virginia, and Edward McPherson with McPherson Rane in Los Angeles.

Goldstein and The Last Experience were represented by Brent Blakely and Craig Huber with the Blakely Law Group of Manhattan Beach.

Hendrix, widely regarded as the world’s most influential rock guitarist, died on Sept. 18, 1970, from an overdose of sleeping pills, aspirating on his own vomit.

Born James Marshall Hendrix in Seattle, Hendrix began playing guitar at 15, and eventually backed the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and Curtis Knight and the Squires.

He moved to England in 1966, where he teamed up with bass player Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to create the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the Band of Gypsies.

Hendrix’s recording career lasted about four years and three LPs, before his untimely death at 27.

His final studio album, Electric Ladyland, reached No. 1 in the United States in 1968. Among his hit songs were “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”