The Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland

The Kodak Theatre
at Hollywood & Highland

This 136,000 square foot theatre is the cornerstone of the new Hollywood & Highland development.

It is also be the first permanent home of the Academy Awards show in 73 years - since the first Oscar Night was held at the Roosevelt Hotel across the street.

And it is the world's only live broadcast theatre. As such, it has been custom-designed for the special needs of Oscar Night and other live TV broadcasts.

In the past, seats had to be taken out at other venues to make room for the TV cameras and other equipment. Not so at Oscar's new home. During live broadcasts, a unique "media cockpit" will rise above the center of the orchestra seating, and acts as the technical heart of the production, containing television cameras, sound & lighting equipment. Workmen have installed flexible pathways for the cables and wiring that will be needed for future events.

Even the seating has been specially planned for Oscar Night. The theatre's flexible seating configuration ranges from 2,000 seats for live theatre up to 3,604 on Academy Awards night. The orchestra level has a ring of seating adjacent to the orchestra pit to accommodate Oscar nominees and allow the winners easy access to the stage.

The stage itself is one of the largest in the nation, measuring 120 feet wide and 75 feet deep.

After the acceptance speeches, celebrities follow the "Winners Walk," a direct path from the speakers podium to the special press room (which can accommodate 1,500 journalists for those post-Oscar interviews).

Three balcony levels keep audiences close to the stage, while 20 opera boxes give the super-VIP's some new turf to wrangle over. The boxes aren't glassed-in or curtained, and put those in the boxes closer to the rest of the audience. They include digital screens that allow celebs to order drinks and souvenirs with the touch of a button. VIP's also enjoy separate entrances to the theatre and a direct connection to the adjacent luxury hotel.

The theatre is patterned after the grand opera houses of Europe, but with a distinct high-tech base. The balconies are decorated with rich blue & wine fabric and a glass material on the front that will "glow." The giant, silver leaves that make up a stylized crown near the theater's ceiling can be lowered to form columns.

In an attempt to capture the light & transparency of projected movies, designer Rockwell's emphasis is on glass and sparkle: while entering, visiting celebs will pass through glass curtains at the gate, past glass panels etched with the titles of Best Pictures, by wall-sized lobby windows offering a panoramic view of the Hollywood hills, down hallways studded with shimmering, star-filter beads... all to simulate a "symbolic move past the screen and into the movies."

The theatre is sponsored by the Kodak Company, which paid a record $75 million to have its name emblazoned on the new auditorium. That's certainly appropriate. Kodak has a Hollywood history of its own: the company has won eight Academy Awards over the years. Kodak is known for pictures, and they expect this will be one of the most photographed locations in Hollywood - they even plan to provide an imaging center to process film and serve as a digital library. Said one optimistic spokesperson about the new theatre: "We firmly believe that the Kodak Theatre has the opportunity to be the premier showcase for live theatre, live music and award show programming - not just in Los Angeles but in the United States."

Even though the theatre was custom-designed for Oscar Night, the Motion Picture Academy doesn't own the theatre, they will simply rent the facility for the Big Event. The City of Los Angeles owns the theatre and parking structure (in return for a $90 million investment in the project).

For the rest of the year, the theatre will host a new Cirque du Soleil show called "IRIS", with music composed by Danny Elfman. The new show began performances in September of 2011, and will be a permanent resident at the Kodak.

I went to see the show in early October.  Click here to read my review of IRIS.

Hollywood & Highland is a project of TrizecHahn.

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