General view of atmosphere at the 81st Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
The Kodak Theater, whose name became synonymous with the Academy Awards, will soon have a new name and may – or may not – be in danger of losing the Oscars to a competing venue.
Eastman Kodak Co., which bought naming rights to the theater in 2000, filed for bankruptcy in January and is seeking to be released by the courts from the $75 million deal.
The move by Kodak “reflects our commitment to ensure that we are maximizing value for our entertainment customers, creditors and other stakeholders," Chris Veronda, manager of corporate communications for the company, said in a statement.
Meaning corporate sponsorship of the theater at Hollywood and Highland is now up for grabs.
No one will say outright that the Oscars themselves are also up for grabs, but the rumors have been flying for months, prompted by the academy’s decision in December to exercise an option in its contract with CIM, the owner of the Kodak Theater, to consider other venue options.
Previous reports stated that the academy was in preliminary, informal discussions with mega sports and entertainment developer AEG to move the Oscars to the Nokia Theater, the crown jewel of the company’s LA LIVE development.
The Nokia Theater is host to the Emmys. If the Oscars were brought into the LA LIVE location, the TV award ceremony would have the option to opt-out of its contract with AEG.
A spokeswoman for AEG said no one was available to comment.
An academy spokeswoman said negotiations thus far have been limited to discussions with CIM over whether the Oscars will stay at the Kodak Theater beyond 2013.
In an interview with thewrap.com, Tom Sherak, the academy's president, said he would be “surprised” if the Oscars left the Kodak Theater. “But is it possible? Anything's possible,” he said. “We're negotiating with them now."
Losing the Academy Awards would hurt Hollywood’s pride, said Leron Gubler president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Gubler credited the awards with helping spur key development in the area.
“It is it has acted as a catalyst to jump start and revitalize Hollywood,” Gubler said. “The Academy Awards created credibility and allowed the Hollywood and Highland project to go forward."
L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose district includes Hollywood, said the show should stay put.
"Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world, and there's nowhere else the Oscars should be," he said in a written comment.
Losing the Oscars would not necessarily have a major economic impact on the area, said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
Green compared the overall impact of the Oscars with that of the Super Bowl.
“It raises the profile of the city a little bit and it's nice,” he said. “However research suggests that it just doesn't matter all that much."
Regardless of the impact, Gubler said that in the end, he thinks the Oscars will stay in Hollywood. “The Kodak Theater was designed to the academy's specifications,” he said. “You can't find any other theater to accommodate the Academy Awards the same.”