Kodak Can Remove Name From Oscar Theater, Judge Rules

Decision comes 11 days before the Academy Awards

Eastman Kodak is being let out of its sponsorship deal for the theater that hosts the Oscars, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge ruled Wednesday. 

The move comes just 11 days before the Academy Awards are to be held. 

The photography company filed for Chapter 11 protection last month, and asked the court to allow it to end its $75 million naming rights deal for the Kodak Theater.

The company signed the 20-year pact in 2000. 

Also read: Kodak Wants Its Name Off Oscar Theater — Will AMPAS Approve Next Sponsor?

CIM Group, the real estate company that owns the theater at Hollywood & Highland, objected. 

Kodak argued that given its recent financial headaches, it can no longer justify the more than $4 million it pays in fees for those naming rights. 

Come awards time on Feb. 26, the theater may still have the Kodak name emblazoned on its side. Under the ruling, CIM Group, the developer of the mall, can determine when the sign is removed. 

"The Counterparty may but is not required to delay the removal of the signage associating the theater with the Debtors, but any delay shall not delay the effective date of this order of rejection," Judge Allan Gropper said in his ruling

Also read: Tom Sherak Grilled on Ratner, Oscar Hosts: 'Billy Crystal Is Not Too Old!'

CIM Group is now free to seek another corporate sponsor. But the motion picture academy's board of governors, which puts on the Oscars, can veto the choice.

Following Kodak's request, Tom Sherak, the Academy’s president, told TheWrap that making the deal for a new sponsor is up to CIM.

“Let's say they brought in Dell, we probably wouldn't disapprove that," Sherak said. "We don't approve, but if it was something that didn't work, we'd disapprove.”

Ultimately, it may not matter what the motion picture academy thinks. The Academy's board of governors is weighing a move to a new venue, but if it does not, it can nix potential sponsors.

In December, the Academy exercised an option in its 20-year deal with the owner of the Kodak that allows it to consider other venues before deciding whether to recommit to the theater for the final 10 years of its contract.

If it does not find another location, it will stay at the theater, which by that point may have a new corporate sponsor and a new name. 

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.