Academy Exercises Kodak Theater Escape Clause

Move will enable Board of Governors to consider alternate venues, but may also result in a return to the Kodak

The Academy Awards might move from the Kodak Theater in two years, but don't back up the moving vans just yet.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Academy's Board of Governors has exercised an option in its 20-year deal with the owner of the Kodak. The move does not mean that the Oscars will move to another theater, only that the Academy will consider other venues before deciding whether to recommit to the Kodak for the final 10 years of its contract.

Kodak Theater"Honestly, I think we'll end up staying at the Kodak," one board member told TheWrap on condition of anonymity. "But it would be foolish not to at least exercise the option and see what other opportunities might be available."

The move will enable the Academy to consider alternatives to a building that was constructed specifically for the Oscars, and could also lead to a better deal from the CIM Group, which owns the Hollywood & Highland Center.

Academy officials did not respond to TheWrap's request for comment.

The Kodak was chosen at a time when the Academy was dissatisfied with its two main homes, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Shrine Auditorium. It was difficult to obtain enough rehearsal time at the Chandler, which at the time was home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the L.A. Opera; the Shrine, for its part, was deemed inelegant, with major traffic problems both on surrounding streets and in the halls between the theater and the site of the Governors Ball.

Before the Kodak was built, the Academy considered a number of other venues.  When Hollywood & Highland developers TrizecHahn came to the Academy in the late 1990s and asked if AMPAS would be interested in opening a movie museum at the center, the Academy proposed an Oscars theater instead.

Kodak Theater interiorThe building was constructed specifically for the awards, and includes a number of technical innovations designed to facilitate production of the show. But because the space was not originally envisioned as a theater – instead, it was to have been the location of an above-ground parking garage at the rear of the Hollywood & Highland Center – it always had certain problems for the Oscars.

Unlike the Chandler and the Shrine, the Kodak is not a freestanding building whose approach can be decorated to advertise the Oscars. Instead, it is located at the rear of a shopping center, whose stories and commercial signage have to be painstakingly covered for the pre-Oscar telecast.

And because of the relatively small footprint the builders had to work with, the Kodak is vertically oriented, with its top two balconies looking almost directly down on the stage, and with cramped space in the wings of the stage.

"It was not what we thought it would be," said Oscar show director Louis J. Horvitz after moving into the theater in 2002. "It started out to be bigger and wider, and then retail came in … And suddenly it's a vertical house, and suddenly my stage left is now a Krispy Kreme Donuts store."

The original contract with the Kodak Theater called for a 20-year run in the theater, but included the escape clause that could be activated after 10 years. The Academy has now staged 10 Oscar shows in the theater.

Kodak, which pays the Academy $4 million a year for the naming rights to the theater, has in recent years suffered significant business setbacks with the move from film to digital. If the company opts not to remain the theater's naming sponsor, a new sponsor would need to be found.

The Academy currently has the Kodak Theater for the month of the Oscars. A variety of other events took place in the theater for the first nine years of its existence, but Cirque du Soleil now occupies the venue 11 months of the year with its Hollywood-themed show Iris.

Likely suitors for the Oscars would include the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, which has hosted numerous awards shows in recent years and has double the capacity of the Kodak, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which would find it much easier to open up rehearsal time with the L.A. Philharmonic now based across the street at Disney Hall.