Revelers preview Premiere Theater

Naming rights for Oscar site still up for grabs

The crowd at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue sipped champagne and ate Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvres, just as they will each Oscar night starting in 2002.

This time, however, revelers also donned hard hats and ducked past metal beams to get an early look Thursday night at the sprawling project. Its centerpiece is the Premiere Theater, future home of the Oscars and, developers hope, a year-round magnet for concerts, plays, pic preems and other kudocasts.

“It’s going to re-establish Hollywood the place as the center of Hollywood the entertainment industry,” said Lee Wagman, prexy of TrizecHahn Development Corp., builder of the 1.3 million-square-foot complex.

Such unbridled optimism abounded at the event, which saw execs reveal a few new wrinkles about the site but signaled no major changes of direction.

One long-awaited development is a name change for the theater. A still-unnamed corporate sponsor is poised to spend big coin for the naming rights. An announcement had been expected during this Oscar season. Execs say they are near a deal but it’s not yet firm.

Peter Holmes a Court, a veteran legit producer and head of Premiere Theater programmer Back Row Prods., used a spotlight to give Thursday’s 40 or so attendees (including Acad prexy Robert Rehme and exec director Bruce Davis) a visual tour.

Color drawings on nearby easels helped point out planned features, such as a hotel tower, an orange grove, restaurants, studio stores and a replica of the famed, giant-sized set D.W. Griffith built for his 1916 silent pic “Intolerance.”

The closing gesture of Holmes a Court’s visual tour didn’t exactly recall Griffith’s epic sensibility, but it underscored both the work that needs to be done and the potential of creating a sparkling gem for the new century.

He trained the spotlight on a six-foot disco ball suspended over the future theater’s stage. The ball threw off shards of light while dance music pulsed through loudspeakers. Below the ball lay a yawning dirt crater, thus far a mere foundation dotted with concrete pilings and a parking-garage ramp.

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