Academy Denies Discussions With Nokia About Moving Oscar Telecast From Kodak

By Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond

To paraphrase Mark Twain, media reports of the imminent death of the relationship between the Oscars and its broadcast home for the past decade, the Kodak theatre, are greatly exaggerated. In fact the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences issued a statement to Deadline tonight saying The Hollywood Reporter‘s claims are “erroneous”. (We hear Academy President Tom Sherak screamed at THR‘s Alex Ben Block and demanded a retraction.) The Academy officially denied to Deadline that AMPAS is already in discussions to move the Academy Awards to AEG’s 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre. “The Academy has not begun any negotiations for the Oscar telecast beyond 2013.”

Off the record, multiple Academy sources are telling Deadline they are not on their way to terminating the deal for the Kodak. They tell us they want to stay at the venue and have not yet had any discussions or negotiations with the Nokia or anyone else. So what’s going on? This all boils down to THR looking to manufacture news. And normal business posturing so that the Academy can put itself into the best possible bargaining position with the Kodak’s owner CIM group as the two sides start discussing the future. AMPAS wants as sweet a deal as possible, so it exercised an option in its contract to have at least the ability to consider another venue after the 2013 show. If the Academy had not exercised the option though by December 31, 2011, it would have automatically had another 8 years under the lease. From a business point of view, it’s about keeping options open. It’s a negotiation tactic even though there isn’t even technically a negotiation with anyone underway. In fact, on Monday, Sherak said on the record to Deadline that he loves the Kodak and hopes the Academy stays there for the foreseeable future. No one at the Academy is seriously talking about departing but Sherak knows that the Academy must look into all possible ppportunities because it makes good business sense. But Academy hearts clearly reside at the Kodak. Nowhere else has been discussed yet, and certainly not leaving Hollywood for downtown and the Nokia. Plus, there’s a specific reason that the Nokia may not be able to showcase the Academy Awards.

If the Movie Academy actually were to enter into negotiations to move the show to the Nokia, officials most likely would run into another potential roadblock: the Primetime Emmys. When the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences decided to ankle the Shrine and move into a new home, officials there were wined and dined by AEG. The TV Academy eventually agreed to move the Primetime Emmys to AEG’s Nokia in 2008 under a 10-year deal. I was on the Board of Governors of the TV Academy at the time, and we had to okay the deal. One of the key selling points was that, while other awards shows could also use the facility, the Emmys would always be the BIG name show at the Nokia. To that end there is language in the TV Academy’s contract stating in effect that if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences were to move the Oscars to Nokia, the TV Academy and the Emmys would have the option to exit. That could be a ticklish situation all around if it were ever to come to pass. An TV Academy source tells me there hasn’t been even a whisper of the Oscars supplanting the Emmys at the Nokia.

But, seriously, how can you even compare the two venues? The Nokia is so generic. The Kodak is gorgeous. When the Academy took over the Kodak in 2002 as its permanent Hollywood home, there was no thought that this wouldn’t be a long-term marriage. Anyone who regularly goes to the Hollywood and Highland mall housing the Kodak sees pride in Oscar’s storied history every day. Plaques with the name of every Best Picture winner line the walls and stairways. And there are empty plaques ready to be adorned with the names of future winners for years to come. Of course financial problems surrounding the venue in the future could alter the present situation, but Sherak says the Movie Academy is entering into this next phase with the hope and expectation that the Oscars won’t be departing the Kodak. It was a big deal for the Academy to come back to Hollywood in 2002 for the first time in over 40 years. But, like we said, there are no negotiations or discussions right now.

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