How Awesome Fest Devolved Into an Ugly Lawsuit — Putting Its Future in Doubt

Founder Josh Goldbloom sued business partner Joanna Pang in February after a dispute over Awesome Fest's equipment. A judge ruled partially in his favor.

Awesome Fest logo

Awesome Fest was created in 2010, per its website, to “showcase innovative and cutting edge independent cinema in unique and non-traditional spaces throughout the City of Philadelphia.” The past few summers, the festival has screened films and put on musical performances in spaces (primarily outdoors) in and around Philly. Last year, it hosted a wide variety of events: A Karate Kid screening and Q&A with Ralph Macchio, a concert by Macaulay Culkin’s Pizza Underground band, a Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon mashup at Clark Park and the Second Annual (Kevin) Bacon Festival. Some of these cost money, but all outdoor screenings were free. The festival even held an event in Chicago last year.

Now, the partnership behind Awesome Fest is in turmoil. Founder Josh Goldbloom sued partner Joanna Pang (who also owns the Trocadero) in February for alleged “misappropriation and mismanagement of Awesome Fest finances and for her secret usurpation of total control of the company and its assets” after she refused to give him Awesome Fest equipment — including a $25,000 projector, a $12,000 screen, $5,000 in audio equipment, and a van — that Goldbloom claims he intended to use to host events under the Awesome Fest banner. 

After two years of increasing tensions, the partners apparently can’t even agree on the how Pang came to own 35 percent of Awesome Fest LLC (Goldbloom holds the other 65 percent). Goldbloom’s suit claims that Pang entered into Awesome Fest, once called the Philadelphia Underground Film Festival, in June 2012 by investing $50,000 that was to be used to purchase the equipment now at issue. In her defense, however, Pang produced documents that stated the $50,000 was actually a loan to Awesome Fest. (Neither Pang nor her attorney responded to requests for comment on this story.)

During a hearing in the case, Goldbloom testified that, as part of a verbal agreement, he was to work full time for Awesome Fest and receive a salary of $35,000 a year. Goldbloom claims that, despite sponsorship and other revenues of approximately $165,000 in 2013 and $60,000 to $70,000 in 2014, he was paid only $17,000 in 2013 and $12,000 in 2014, and that vendors went unpaid. He also claims that all of the company’s troubles blew up a possible $250,000 agreement with Wizard World Comic Con. Goldbloom’s filing also alleged that Pang used the equipment to operate events at the Troc and rented it out to others for profit.

Earlier this month, a Common Pleas judge ruled partially in Goldbloom’s favor (see the suit and ruling below). The judge found that the loan documents Pang produced were unenforceable because they were “all signed by Ms. Pang, and only Ms. Pang, on behalf of Awesome Fest … Goldbloom testified credibly that he did not agree to them and to not even know of their existence until November, 2014, when he and Ms. Pang had some heated conversations and she produced them to him.”

He further ruled that Pang must return the equipment to Goldbloom within 10 days of Goldbloom posting a $100,000 bond, required because Pang “testified credibly that Mr. Goldbloom evidenced a desire to sell that equipment so he could pay himself what he believes he needs to cover personal expenses.” The judge ruled that Goldbloom may not sell the equipment without paying off creditors and splitting the proceeds with Pang. The judge’s order was only for the return of the equipment. Goldbloom says he is still in litigation on six other counts he filed against Pang.

Goldbloom says he’s not interested in selling off the equipment — he just wants to inspect it before posting that bond, and claims that he’s gotten “radio silence” from Pang. If he gets it back, he says, he wants to “continue the process” with Awesome Fest. “Yes, the Awesome Fest will be back,” he posted this week on Facebook. “I’m just not sure when.” He doesn’t expect there will be a full season this year. “We had a little bit of everything,” he said. “That’s exactly what I want to bring back. It’s hard to say what we’ll do in terms of themes … it’s hard for me to focus on that right now. There’s a lot of stuff that we wanted to bring back.”

Follow @dhm on Twitter.

Awesome Fest complaint

Awesome Fest Ruling