For now, erstwhile Kodak Theater owner will be sponsor-free

When the Oscar telecast is broadcast worldwide in just a few days, it will originate from the Hollywood and Highland Center, not the Kodak Theater — nor will the theater carry a new sponsor’s name.

It’s unclear whether CIM Group, the owners of the venue, will remove the Kodak name from its prominent place above the red carpet and fan bleachers by Sunday. But CIM has asked the Academy to make no further mention of Kodak, and AMPAS has complied: A Wednesday press release announcing Meryl Streep as a presenter refers to the venue as the Hollywood and Highland Center.

As part of its bankruptcy proceedings this month, Kodak received court approval to stop payments to CIM and have its name taken down. The judge’s ruling didn’t specify a timeframe, leading to a week of speculation about whether or not the theater would still be called the Kodak come Oscar time.

Meanwhile, Hollywood and Highland owner CIM Group is actively pursuing a sponsor to rename the theater. Variety learned last week that three suitors were interested, but it doesn’t appear a deal will get done in time to add a name for this year’s show.

Heading up the talks for CIM is Santa Monica-based naming rights and consulting firm Premier Partnerships, which is negotiating with marketers. CIM was approached by several interested companies immediately after Eastman Kodak first petitioned a bankruptcy court to void its naming-rights deal at the end of January, including Dell Computer, which at one point presented a proposal.

Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not actively involved in the process, it does have the power to veto any sponsor it deems unacceptable. Organizers would prefer a brand with a connection to the film biz or with an upscale pedigree.

Kodak has held the rights since the theater opened in 2002. Its exit coincides with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences exercising its right to shop for another venue. Academy prexy Tom Sherak told Variety last week that the Academy has been approached by other venues, but CIM is currently the only group with which it is currently negotiating.

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