AEG built venue to save producers time, money

The Eagles secured glowing reviews for the Nokia Theater, Neil Young reinforced the first impressions, and now it’s the American Music Awards’ chance to reveal the glow of L.A.’s newest live entertainment venue.

The AMAs is the first awards show to broadcast from the $125 million Nokia, which sits at the heart of the still-under-construction L.A. Live campus adjacent to Staples Center.

“It’s a whole new territory,” says show producer Larry Klein, who handled the previous 34 editions at the Shrine Auditorium. “After years of never thinking about the building, I know I have to think as much about the venue as the show. We’re the setting the bar, striving for the best, hoping to make the biggest statement.”

The AMA telecast will be a calling card for venue owner the Anschutz Entertainment Group as it reaches out to orgs ranging from the Television Academy to ESPN to the NFL, hoping to bring their annual events to the Nokia.

AEG is looking to attract another nine kudocasts per year, and the org is very consciously limiting that number: It’s just as important that it book 80-100 concerts per year. AEG figures each awards show requires 10 to 14 days from load-in to load-out, which means each kudocast translates to nearly two weeks in which the privately funded building stops producing revenue.

Money, though, is a key selling point, as AEG CEO and president Tim Leiweke pointed out to Variety just before the venue opened with an Eagles and Dixie Chicks concert last month: “People will spend less money producing here than in any other house.”

Lee Zeidman, general manager of the Nokia Theater and Staples Center, backs up that idea with one that’s more specific: “We feel that the friendliness of the load-in (area) means we can cut two to four days” off standard load-in time at other venues.

Zeidman had finished loading the lights a week before rehearsals began on Thursday and was taken by how the building’s loading dock, aerial and stage design was easing the show setup.

“There are three entrances to the stage, and it’s a very easy building to hand things in because of the catwalk and the rigging grid,” he says. Equipment and set pieces are assembled on the stage and then raised up to be stored, until the show’s producers create a choreographed dance of scenery and sound gear.

“We liked the idea of being the first live televised show from the Nokia,” says Terry Bateman, CEO of both RedZone Capital and Dick Clark Prods., which owns and produces the American Music Awards. “It gives the show a little lift. There’s a bit more enthusiasm, we’re spending a little more, doing a little bit more. We inherited some great production talent, developed a great relationship with AEG, and we’re going to have a show in a fabulous theater.”

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