Oscar may be coming home to Hollywood.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is in preliminary discussions with developer TrizecHahn Centers to move the Academy Awards ceremony into a permanent venue on Hollywood Boulevard.
The proposed 3,300-seat theater, which could be ready as soon as 2001, would be part of a planned retail and entertainment development adjacent to the Mann Chinese Theatre.
The site is kitty-corner to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the Academy Awards were first held in 1929.
Academy execs have met extensively with the developer to discuss the technical and logistical requirements of the Oscarcast, according to executive director Bruce Davis.
“We asked each of our technical experts, including production designers, lighting technicians and show directors, ‘What would you build into an ideal venue?,’ ” Davis said. “The architects responded to their wish lists very creatively.”
But Davis said the finances of the proposal have not been fully addressed. “We now have designed a marvelous theater. The question remains whether they can afford to build it and whether we can afford to move in.”
Academy president Robert Rehme recently appointed a committee of Academy governors to look in into the idea.
For the last three decades, the Oscarcast has alternated between the 3,200-seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the 6,300-seat Shrine Auditorium.
Neither site is considered ideal: While the Chandler is a more elegant and intimate location, it is not large enough to accommodate demand for tickets from the Academy’s 5,000-plus members. Also, the Academy has recently run into scheduling conflicts with the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra, which makes its winter home at the Chandler. The Shrine, meanwhile, elicits criticism for its location, parking and ambiance.
The new theater, which would have the same nominal seating capacity as the Chandler, would actually hold as many as 500 more Academy members, according to Davis, because seats would not have to be removed to accommodate a central camera position.
One unresolved issue is what TrizecHahn would do with the theater for the rest of the year.
“We have a ton of creative ideas for how to utilize the theater for the other 11 months,” TrizecHahn senior VP David Malmuth said. “Those include signature shows, large movie premieres, concerts and other special-event programming. You have a unique situation where the theater is designed for live broadcast or taping.”
The Hollywood and Highland Project, as its known, will extend along Hollywood Boulevard from the eastern wall of the Chinese to Highland Boulevard. It will encompass a Metrorail station, due to be completed by 2000.
The development is being spearheaded by Malmuth, who managed the Disney Co.’s renovation of the New Amsterdam Theatre in Gotham and was instrumental in the revitalization of New York’s 42nd Street.
The developers are currently in negotiations with the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is expected to approve the project and possibly provide financial subsidies. After that it must then be approved by the City Council.
Malmuth said he expected the project would get the go-ahead from the city within six to eight months.
The project has the support of Mayor Riordan as well as Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, whose district encompasses Hollywood.
So far, the only tenant to commit to the center is Mann Theatres, which plans a 14-plex adjacent to the Chinese.
After the first Academy Awards, Oscar returned to Hollywood for two separate periods: From 1944-1946, when the Awards were handed out in the Chinese Theatre, and from 1951-1960, when they were presented in the Pantages Theater, also on Hollywood Boulevard.
Earlier this year, Academy executives went as far as to tour theaters in Orange County and Long Beach as potential sites for the 1999 awards.
However, few Hollywood insiders believed the Academy would take the Oscarcast out of L.A..
Next year’s ceremony will be held at the Shrine Auditorium. The 1999 event will take place at the Chandler.