AMPAS pacts with CIM, venue renamed Dolby Theater

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has struck a 20-year agreement to stay at the Hollywood and Highland Center, where the Oscars venue will now be called the Dolby Theater.

AMPAS’ deal with venue owner CIM Group comes after a months-long flirtation with a possible move via an out clause that was triggered this year. While that was going on, Eastman Kodak was able to wiggle out of its sponsorship deal as part of its ongoing bankruptcy.

Tuesday’s announcement of the two separate agreements brings apparent stability through 2033 to the location of the Oscars, which many had hoped would find a way to stay in Hollywood. The erstwhile Kodak Theater has hosted the Oscars since 2002.

“We’re very happy,” AMPAS prexy Tom Sherak told Variety. “We couldn’t be happier to still have the awards in Hollywood. That was an important part of what the board wanted. This was a board decision. We had more offers, but in the long run, after we (looked at) all the offers, the board felt Hollywood is the home of the Academy Awards, and we should stay there.”

“The board was most concerned about where the awards belonged, not the deal that was made. … (CIM) wanted us very badly, and we wanted to be there very badly.”

It was not immediately clear whether the new CIM-Academy deal contained its own potential escape clause.

The Dolby agreement officially commences in the summer, and will begin with an update of the venue’s sound technology with newly launched Dolby Atmos. Dolby 3D will also come into play.

“Our partnership with CIM allows the Dolby Theater to be the world stage for the Academy Awards and for Dolby innovation for decades to come,” Dolby Laboratories prexy and CEO Kevin Yeaman said.

Signage for the theater should be updated “within weeks,” said Dolby sales and marketing exec veep Ramzi Haidamus.

“We are currently working feverishly on upgrading every sign imaginable in as short of a time as possible to make sure it is most impactful,” Haidamus said.

Haidamus added that the naming rights deal is directly linked to the Oscar ceremony’s presence at Hollywood and Highland.

“As long as the Oscars are being held in this venue, the deal will withstand the test of time,” he said.

The Acad had to approve the Dolby naming rights, but Sherak called that decision “a no-brainer.” CIM closed its deal with Dolby, then the Academy.

“If you can get Dolby,” Sherak said, “that’s a mainstay in our business, no different than Kodak was.”

Said Haidamus: “We have worked with the Academy for some time. We have upgraded this theater many times from a sound and vision perspective, so we are very familiar with the venue. Yes, (the deal) was complex, but it was facilitated by a long history with AMPAS.”

Reflecting on the relatively tumultuous winter for the Oscar venue, Sherak said that for the Academy, “it wasn’t difficult” because of the knowledge that the ceremony had alternatives to turn to.

“For us, it was what was good for the show, and what kind of a deal could we make for that — in that order, by the way,” Sherak said.

Hollywood Chamber of Commers prexy and CEO Leron Gubler praised the deal.

“The Academy Awards is one of the forces that brings worldwide attention to our community,” Gubler said. “It also means that jobs will stay in Hollywood: It will bring more revenue and more tourists will come to see this famed community”

Josh L. Dickey contributed to this report.

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