Oscar’s permanent home ready for debut next year

Site boasts restaurants, cinema, ballroom

HOLLYWOOD — While the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is infamous for running over schedule on Oscar night, the same can no longer be said about the ceremony’s future home at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Scheduled to open in the fall, the $500 million theater-retail-hotel project in the heart of Hollywood is expected to be fully operational to host the ceremony in 2002 and beyond.

Beth Harris, director of marketing for Hollywood and Highland, says with most of the exterior structure finished, attention is turning to the interior.

“All of the basic components of the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars will take place) are framed and all the walls are in place. You can physically stand on the stage,” Harris says.

Daily Variety previously reported that Kodak paid approximately $75 million for the naming rights.

The first phase of the project to open is the retail section, set to debut in the fall. After that will be the opening of the 640-room Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in the winter and the Kodak next March for the 74th Academy Awards.

The site was originally set to bow for this year’s Oscars, until design factors such as lines of sight in the theater and parking for broadcast trucks delayed the project.

But progress on the site since has been steady.

“There’s a lot of concrete and steel going up,” says Ric Robertson, executive administrator of the Academy. “We’re tracking the progress of construction real carefully.

“We’re still expecting to be there for the 74th Academy Awards,” he adds.

The Acad continues to prefer not to be too closely associated with the theater, of which it will only be a tenant once a year for the Oscars.

Operations of the theater will be handled by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which also runs the Staples Center and the Great Western Forum. The theater will be used for legit, concerts, comedy and non-Oscars awards shows the rest of the year.

In addition to the 3,300-seat Kodak, the project encompasses 640,000 square feet, including: 225,000 square feet of retail space; 100,000 square feet for restaurants and live venues; 45,000 square feet for a multiscreen cinema; and a 35,000-square-foot ballroom featuring cuisine by Wolfgang Puck. The latter will be the site of the Governors Ball, held each year in conjunction with the Oscars.

The hotel is a Marriott affiliate and will feature 25,000 square feet of meeting space for conventions and business affairs.

With its prime location next to Mann’s Chinese Theatre and easy access via Metro Rail, the completed project should be popular with the estimated 9.5 million tourists who trek to Hollywood each year.

Developer TrizecHahn reports an expected economic boost to the area of up to $265 million and $7.7 million in tax revenues for the city of Los Angeles.

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