“Have you ever seen the rain,” John Fogerty wanted to know on the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit of the same name, “coming down on a sunny day?” Fifty years ago next week, over 400,000 music fans saw it happen on Max Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, New York. By the time Crosby, Stills, and Nash performed a Joni Mitchell song celebrating the event, the crowd was “half a million strong.” The hastily built stage was set for them to enjoy three days of peace, love, and music at what has come be to known as Woodstock.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary, Fathom Events and Warner Bros. will screen the director’s cut of Michael Wadleigh’s documentary Woodstock at more than 600 nationwide theaters. The event will happen one night only: Thursday, Aug. 15, 50 years to the day the festival kicked off..
Here’s the official statement:
“Before it happened, the rock-music festival on a dairy farm was billed as ‘An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music’ and no one realized the weekend would become one of the seminal moments not just in music history, but in American history. Fifty years later, the groundbreaking film that captured the original Woodstock music festival has become one of the most acclaimed documentaries ever produced.”
The film presents an intimate look at the festival, from Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rendering of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to other iconic performances by 32 acts that defined a generation. The movie features 30 musical performances, among them a five-song set by Hendrix which includes “Purple Haze.” There are also performances by the Who, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and Joan Baez. This cut, which runs 3 hours and 44-minutes, features performances which weren’t seen in the original theatrical version.
Director Wadleigh presented the musical and cultural happening from different perspectives, including split-screen and multi-screen sequences. Besides the performances, Woodstock also captures the people who attended the festival, “the chaotic mood of the era, and the incendiary sparks let off by the event,” according to the release.
“Both as a documentary and as a pop-culture phenomenon, Woodstock is a milestone, a pivotal moment in history captured forever, proving the enduring power of cinema,” Ray Nutt, CEO of Fathom Events, said in a statement. “Fifty years later, there has never been anything quite like it, either as a music festival or as a film, and Fathom Events is proud to be part of the anniversary of Woodstock.”
The original theatrical version was a box-office smash when it was first released in March 1970. Entertainment Weekly called Woodstock “the single greatest film ever made about the 1960s.” Woodstock received an Academy Award for Best Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker, a longtime collaborator of Martin Scorsese, who is also credited (along with Stan Warnow, Yeu-Bun Yee, Jere Higgins and Wadleigh) as one of its editors.
Little known fact: Neil Young refused to be filmed at the festival, saying he thought the cameras were a distraction.
This presentation is the first wide, national theatrical re-release of the film since its original run.
Woodstock: The Director’s Cut will play at 7:00 p.m. local time on Thursday, August 15, in movie theaters nationwide.
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Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.