Pulling back the curtain for the first time, the architect of the $94-million theater that will house the Academy Awards beginning in March 2002 describes its vibe as a grand opera house with shimmering film imagery, high-tech amenities and a lobby walled on one side by glass that will afford a panoramic view of the Hollywood sign.
The Premiere Theatre, part of the sprawling Hollywood & Highland entertainment and retail complex, is slated to open in September 2001 to host concerts and Broadway-style fare. But the tenant named Oscar is the one that will be most reflected in the venue's design, according to architect David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group in New York.
Visitors will walk through glassed portals, down a ground-stone floor that evokes a red carpet and through corridors inlaid with refractive, star-filter beads that "symbolically move them past the screen and into the movies," Rockwell said. "It's intended to be a celebration of light and transparency, the magic of projected light."
A more overt nod to Hollywood will be the gallery of backlighted posters of best picture Oscar winners, but other memorabilia will be omitted, Rockwell said, to keep a stately sensibility to the venue.
The newly announced tenant for the theater, Peter Holmes a Court and his Back Row Productions, said the mission of the theater and the Hollywood & Highland project is no less than creating a reality to match the glamour image of Tinseltown.
"Hollywood is the greatest brand name in the world, bar none," said the Australia-born Holmes a Court. "We want to put the gloss back on that brand name that, at its actual epicenter, is somewhat downtrodden."
The Hollywood & Highland project, helmed by TrizecHahn Development Corp. of San Diego, is a $430-million entertainment and retail complex that will include a 640-room hotel operated by Marriott International Inc., a four-screen movie theater and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom. Retail tenants have not been announced, but expected to be included is Q's Juke Joint, a restaurant-nightclub run by music industry veteran Quincy Jones.
Many local business leaders hail the complex--which counting the hotel would total 1.3 million square feet--as the flagship project in the campaign to revive and revitalize Hollywood.
A centerpiece will be the Premiere Theatre, which will seat between 2,200 for live theater and up to 3,600 for concerts and award shows. Holmes a Court projects that a typical year of fare would include 30 to 40 concerts, eight to 12 weeks of Broadway-style shows, four to six weeks of touring dance shows, five awards galas and perhaps a dozen nights devoted to comedians or other non-musical acts.
While the design seems to evoke an opulent opera hall of old, the venue will be literally hard-wired into the future of entertainment technology with equipment and a design that Holmes a Court said should make it "digitally enabled" to handle shows for broad-band streaming and still classically impressive for jaded Information Age audiences.
"As far as the bells and whistles," Holmes a Court said, "the bells are the size of church bells."
Among the high-tech touches are digital screens in the 16 theater boxes haloing the venue that allow audience members to order drinks and souvenirs with the touch of a button. The huge, silver leaves that form a tiara-like shape near the theater's ceiling can be lowered to form columns, while a "media cockpit" under the orchestra area can be elevated to become mission control during shows being broadcast or recorded for "television, film, the Internet, microwave ovens or whatever else springs up."
The luxury boxes will not have glass or curtains, and they will protrude at an angle that allows eye contact with others in the building--purposeful moves meant to diffuse some of the cold distances that separate the VIP areas from the remainder of the seats, Holmes a Court said.
At Staples Center, for instance, the arena design has been criticized for creating too many barriers between the luxury boxes and the general audience areas, reinforcing perceptions of classism--a hot-button topic in Southern California. While there will be numerous nods to exclusivity for the VIP patrons (including Spago catering, separate entrances and a direct connection to the complex hotel), there is also a need to create a communal experience, Holmes a Court said.
"It was incredibly important for us to get that mix right, to make it special and secure but non-elitist," Holmes a Court said. His company, Back Row Productions, is backing "Amadeus" on Broadway, and he said there already has been a "swell of interest" in the new venue, which he added enjoys advantages in its design, location and ties to Hollywood. He said programming announcements will be made in November.
One early advantage--or missed opportunity--for the Premiere is that another nearby competitor, the Pantages Theatre, will be tied up for at least nine months with Disney's hugely successful "The Lion King," beginning in September. Century City's 2,100-seat Shubert Theatre, which is operated by Broadway's powerful Shubert Organization, hasn't tapped a big, long-running musical since "Ragtime" in 1998.