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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
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Festival Creator Says It Lost the Reins to CBGB

MANHATTAN (CN) - CBGB hijacked the third annual CBGB Music and Film Festival, the New York event's original planner claims in court, seeking $30 million.

The five-day event running from Oct. 8-12 this year, named for the once hub-of-punk club on the Bowery that shuttered in 2006, is part of the Times Square Arts Festival. In addition to 30 films, the festival will feature performances from Billy Idol, Devo, Macy Gray, Jane's Addiction and several indie bands at venues across the city.

SW Productions sued the festival Wednesday in New York County Supreme Court, claiming that it owns the exclusive production rights for at least the next three years.

It says CBGB cut SWP out of this year's festival and now intends to produce the festival itself, with help from Numbers and Figures Inc. and iDEKO, which are run by former executives at SWP who helped produce previous festivals.

SWP says it has suffered millions in damages, since all its efforts this year to contact vendors, negotiate permits with the city, hire staff to man the event and create an operating budget "are now for naught."

CBGB Festival allegedly grew out of, but now includes, the Times Square Festival, which SWP claims to have created in 2010, just after Macy's decided to change the route of its Thanksgiving Day Parade to bypass Times Square.

CBGB recognized the "rare opportunity" of such a festival and "aggressively pursued the opportunity" to be part of it, acccording to the complaint.

The parties allegedly agreed in October 2011 to include CBGB, and SWP says their contract gave it the right to produce the Times Square Festival as part of the larger CBGB Festival for five years beginning in 2012.

CBGB was to pay SWP 15 percent of final production costs, excluding permits, and an annual fee to increase annually, according to the complaint.

SWP notes that two of its employees who helped produce the Times Square Festivals - Jennifer Douglas and Evan Korn - left in early 2014. Douglas founded Numbers and Figures Inc., while Korn joined up at iDEKO. Neither Douglas nor Korn are named as defendants, but the aforementioned companies are.

SWP says CBGB submitted its own application to New York City officials for permits to produce the Times Square Festival this past June without SWP.

CBGB then had the "audacity" to claim it was the "authorized owner" of the festival, and hired SWP's former executives to produce the festival without SWP, according to the complaint.

SWP says Douglas and Korn know how to produce the Times Square festival only because it trained them to cultivate the necessary key business relationships.

"Far from being ashamed of, or taking responsibility for, its misconduct, CBGB boldly advertised its wrongdoings by marketing its production of the Times Square Festival beginning in early August 2014 - while simultaneously encouraging SWP to continue to take actions to produce the festival," the complaint states.

When CBGB made its "true intentions" known on Sept. 5, it allegedly told SWP: "We are not interested in any further discussions with SWP. We are not asking SWP to work on the 2014 festival."

SWP says the new political climate would have made this a "key" year for the festival. While the previous festivals occurred during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 2014 marks the inaugural festival under Mayor Bill DiBlasio.

"This would have been an important accomplishment for SWP," according to the complaint. "It would have established with the new administration that the festival is a successful event, which, in turn, would have set a precedent for the new administrations future dealings with SWP in relation to its Times Square Festival."

Also named as defendants are CBGB Holdings; Productions New York City and 315 Bowery Holdings.

SWP seeks $10 million for breach of contract, $10 million for unjust enrichment and $10 for promissory estoppels.

It is represented by Dominic Picca with Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo.

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