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Ruling: Kodak can exit Oscar venue

Feb. 26 ceremony could be held in nameless venue

Eastman Kodak has won the right in bankruptcy court to terminate its sponsorship agreement with the home of the Oscars, creating the possibility of a nameless venue — or an all-new sponsor — by the time the Feb. 26 telecast comes around.

Though the judge did not specify a time-frame for removing Kodak’s name, a company spokesperson who confirmed the ruling said the matter is in the hands of venue owner CIM.

“We have been successful in terminating our sponsorship,” the spokesperson said. “It’s up to them as to how they’ll change the signage.”

The naming rights agreement dates back to 2000, when the company agreed to pay $3.6 million per year to call the venue at Hollywood and Highland the Kodak Theatre. Wednesday’s ruling terminates some $38 million of the $72 million contract.

CIM group objected to Kodak’s request on Feb. 8 and has expressed qualms about removing all traces of the sponsorship, stressing that to do so would not be feasible with the Oscars’ promotional campaign already well under way and only two weeks left before the ceremony.

Kodak’s win coincides with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences exercising its right to shop for another venue. Academy president Tom Sherak told Variety earlier in the month that talks with CIM are still ongoing; however, if AMPAS chooses another venue, it would eliminate the cache that sponsorship of the theater offers.

The Oscars are by far the highest-profile event that takes place at the complex, though the theater also has served as the home of Fox’s finale of “American Idol,” the ESPY, BET and Daytime Emmy awards, as well as Cirque du Soleil’s “Iris.”

AMPAS has no active involvement in who lands the new sponsorship deal but does have veto power over the selection.

Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 19 through the United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York.

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