Dena D' Angelo, lead scenic artist is touching up the crown that was… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
After a decade of holding Hollywood's biggest night of the year at the Kodak Theatre, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is considering moving its annual Academy Awards ceremony to the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.
Preliminary discussions about the potential relocation are underway between the academy and AEG, owner of the Nokia Theatre, according to a person familiar with AEG's operations who was not authorized to speak publicly. Officials at both the academy and AEG declined to comment.
Update: 12:19 a.m.
The academy issued a brief statement Wednesday night saying: "The Academy has not begun venue negotiations for the Oscar telecast beyond 2013."
The move downtown would be a big blow for the 3,500-seat Kodak Theatre, which was built specifically to the academy's requirements ahead of the 2002 Oscar broadcast and has served as the cornerstone to the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex.
This year's ABC telecast Feb. 26 will mark the 10th annual show to be held at the theater. It also marks a point in the academy's long-term contract with the CIM Group, the landlord of the Kodak Theatre, that allows the organization to explore cheaper lease options for the 2014 show. CIM also declined to comment. The Hollywood Reporter, an industry trade publication, first reported the discussions Wednesday.
There is a chance that the academy could renegotiate its lease with CIM and keep the Oscars rolling at the Kodak.
A move to the Nokia would enable the academy to more than double the occupancy of its annual broadcast. The cavernous, 7,100-seat theater also hosts the annual Emmy Awards and the American Music Awards shows. The Grammy Awards have been handed out at the adjacent Staples Center 11 times in the last 12 years.
Proponents of the Nokia say the venue, which is part of AEG's larger L.A. Live complex, would also offer the academy more room for outdoor activities. The X Games sports competition and "American Idol" television show have incorporated Nokia's plaza into their events. The space also offers three ballroom options with the J.W. Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotel complex next to the theater. A tunnel connecting the theater to Staples Center would enable the academy to make use of the locker rooms and other facilities in the arena.
From a logistical standpoint, the Kodak Theatre has consistently served the needs of the academy and its changing cadre of producers. Bill Condon, producer of the 81st Academy Awards in 2009, says the Kodak was built to do the show and it's only gotten better since Cirque du Soleil's "Iris" show came into the theater and excavated 40 feet under the stage for its elaborate sets.
"It has a very intimate feel. Technically there is nothing wrong with it," Condon said. "The camera can go almost anywhere. And the backstage space is massive enough to hold everything needed to put on a television show. Plus there are endless dressing rooms."
Leron Gubler, the president/CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said that should the Oscars move out of Hollywood, it would be a big blow to the community.
"Obviously, we'd be very disappointed. The Kodak Theatre was designed for the academy but more than that, historically the academy is tied to Hollywood with the first Academy Awards held in Hollywood," Gubler said. "This, on top of the academy's decision to move their museum out of Hollywood an onto Wilshire Boulevard would send a very negative message to the community."
A representative for City Councilman Eric Garcetti spoke up for the Kodak. " The Academy Awards belong in Hollywood," chief of staff Yusef Robb said.
Criticism of the Kodak has often centered on the theater's tinny acoustics; its steep 37-step grand staircase that leads into the lobby that has often proved treacherous to many female guests in long ball gowns, and the complex's mass-market shopping galleria that stands in stark contrast to the elegant tenor of the Oscars.
Should the academy move downtown, it can still expect its after-ceremony celebration to be served by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. He's the official caterer for both L.A. Live and Hollywood and Highland.