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Academy’s “Talks” to Move Oscars Are Negotiating Tactic

While the notion of the Academy being in talks to move the Oscar ceremony to a new venue makes for a juicy Wednesday-afternoon scoop, Alex Ben Block’s piece for The Hollywood Reporter seems like it’s more negotiating tactic than actual story.

According to Block, who has been tracking the Academy’s renegotiations with the Kodak Theatre, Academy reps are looking at downtown’s L.A. Live as a possible new home for the Oscar ceremony. Its current 10-year contract with the owners of the Kodak expires in 2013, and the Academy just notified the owners that it would not automatically renew, exercising its right to entertain other suitors.

Block makes a good case for why L.A. Live would be a great new home for the telecast, citing “more seats, better infrastructure, greater promotional opportunities and more ancillary facilities for parties and press.” Of these benefits, the only one that has the potential to woo the Academy is better infrastructure. The rest of them are irrelevant.

L.A. Live wasn’t even a twinkle in Philip Anschutz’s eye back in 2001 when the Academy first moved from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the shiny new Kodak, and it certainly has the advantage of being constructed specifically for the purpose of hosting live televised events like the Oscars. So, by virtue of being newer, L.A. Live could be a better venue.

That said, the other advantages Block points to just don’t make any sense. First, the Academy cut the number of tickets available to the ceremony when it moved out of the Chandler. There was some outcry for the first year, but after that everyone seemed to adjust to a smaller auditorium. So why change everything around again in order to get more seats back into the mix? As long as the cameras are there to record every moment, the Oscars are reaching everyone they need to.

Second, and this is a big one, Block cites greater promotional opportunities for the ceremony being at L.A. Live, noting that the e-billboards could offer better visibility. But, really, since when does the ceremony need outdoor signage, particularly outside of the epicenter of the industry? The Oscars need consumer eyeballs watching that ABC telecast, and a billboard in downtown Los Angeles is not the way to get them. Interstitials on ABC will do the trick just fine, no matter where the ceremony happens.

L.A. Live has additional space for after-parties, but the only real after-party that matters is the Governor’s Ball. It seems unlikely that the Academy would opt for a Golden Globes-style venue-o’-revelry, where all of the parties take place in the same building as the ceremony. It could make the lives of security guards a lot easier, but industry-types seem a lot more comfortable in West Hollywood-Golden Triangle environs. It’s bad enough that they have to experience Hollywood Boulevard once a year — no disrespect to the Supermen, Wookies and Marilyn Monroes who work the Walk of Fame every day.

All in all, this sounds like good, old-fashioned negotiation maneuvers, and AEG will be just one appointment on the Academy’s calendar. After all, even the Academy could use a better deal with the Kodak in these tough economic times. But who knows? The way the Academy is zigging and zagging these days, they might just decide to build their own venue.

 Follow me on Twitter @VarietyAwards.


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