Nokia gives Emmy breathing room

New facility to help solve seating crisis

There’s the glitz, the glamour, the brand-spanking newness. But AEG prexy-CEO Tim Leiweke is eager to make another kind of boast about the Emmys’ new home, the Nokia Theater.

“You will feel safer walking in our district in downtown L.A. than Brentwood,” Leiweke declares, “and I live in Brentwood.”

It’s a subjective assessment, but it’s no idle claim as far as Leiweke is concerned.

“Our partner from day one has been the LAPD,” he says, “and we are also very aggressive in making sure the district is safe. Our security of 240 people, who we call ‘redcoats,’ stand out, and everyone sees them — we send a message. We also have hundreds of cameras for the entire (area).”

Of course, Emmy isn’t moving from the Shrine Auditorium to the L.A. Live complex simply because the streets are lined with … well, presence. John Shaffner, chairman and CEO of the TV Acad, compared the move to “a new sandbox to play in.”

“We were really maxed out in available space at the original space and filled it to the limit,” Shaffner says. “Also, there were tremendous pressure from the television community to attend the show. The Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall had downstairs and upstairs, and it was awkward about who from the television community would sit (where).”

Talks for the Emmys/Nokia partnership, which extends through 2018, began more than six years ago, with the Emmys organization providing major input into the design of the theater. The parties strove for an intimate feel with high-quality acoustics. In addition, the design incorporated the Acad’s suggestions about camera positions, backstage arrangement, a computerized lighting system and the creation of as many seats as possible on the orchestra level to accommodate VIPs.

“It was literally built for events like this,” Leiweke says. “It will (also) be able to maximize a 100-acre district, which includes the convention center.”

Shaffner has many compliments for the Shrine as a “wonderful landmark” with “tradition and charm,” but he is excited about the new venue and what the area could become. In the future, guests will be able to stay at the Ritz-Carlton (skedded to open in 2010), valet at multiple points and go to post-event parties in the surrounding area, which will eventually include 12 restaurants and two nightclubs (most of them opening in early December, with the rest to follow in the new year).

“There is a tremendous commitment to reinvigorate downtown,” Shaffner says. “And downtown L.A. has been tremendously supported in that all of our freeways go through it, too.”

Other events at the Nokia include the “American Idol” finals (with plans for a fan fest in years to come), ESPYs, American Music Awards and Billboard Awards.

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