O.C., Long Beach eligible for Oscars

Oscar may head south for the winter of 1999.

Top Academy executives recently toured the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center as potential venues for the 71st Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has already committed to hold next year’s Oscar show at the Shrine Auditorium.

AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis said he was impressed with both sites. “They both have enormous virtues. Orange County has an elegant entrance and the theater itself is quite striking, with well-thought-out, modern stage facilities. The drawback is the long commute.

“The Long Beach site has great facilities where our press needs could be accommodated, and it’s adjacent to the convention center, which would be convenient for the Governors Ball.”

If the Awards were moved to either of the venues, Davis said the Academy would likely reschedule the show to Sunday instead of Monday, to avoid weekday traffic.

“We’re still exploring, and by no means committed to going someplace other than the two places we’ve traditionally gone,” Davis noted.

For nearly 30 years, the Oscarcast has alternated between L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Music Center.

However, both sites have proved problematic in recent years as the show has grown in terms of production scope and press interest.

Time and space

“We have time problems with the Music Center and space problems with the Shrine,” Davis said. “And neither one is likely to be solved in the near future.”

Because of scheduling conflicts with the L.A. Philharmonic season, the Academy has been unable book the 12-14 day load-in period it needs at to the Chandler. Also, the 3,200-seat Chandler is not nearly enough to accommodate the Academy’s 5,000-plus members.

Scheduling is not an issue at the Shrine, which also boasts a 6,300-seat auditorium and a spacious stage. But at this year’s Academy Awards there were numerous complaints of logjams as people tried to exit the ceremony and segue to the Governors Ball.

Disney Hall key

One possible solution to the Music Center problem hinges on the construction of the long-awaited Disney Hall in downtown L.A. If that project goes forward, the L.A. Philharmonic orchestra would likely move there, freeing up the Chandler Pavilion’s schedule.

While recent successful fundraising events have raised hopes Disney Hall may eventually get built, it probably won’t be ready for the 1999 Awards presentation.

“For the City of L.A., it would somewhat of a black eye if the Oscars left,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Development Corp. “On the other hand, it would certainly be a major feather in the cap of Long Beach, which has been very aggressive at rebuilding its downtown.”

Kyser noted that Long Beach, which hosts the annual Grand Prix auto race, has some experience with large scale events. “The problem with Orange County is the distance,” he said. “It would probably take some of the fun out of the situation.

“The Oscars are sort of joined at the hip with Los Angeles,” Kyser added. “This would be major surgery.”

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