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Oscar’s New Home

On May 16,1929, the first Academy Awards were handed out at a banquet held in the Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. With 250 guests at $10 a pop, auditoriums were definitely not an option-yet.

The banquet scene continued for 15 more years at the Roosevelt, Ambassador and Biltmore hotels, but increased attendance and interest eventually forced the presentation ceremonies to larger and grander venues.

In its 16th year, the ceremony was moved to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where it remained for three years before relocating to the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium, followed by the Melrose Avenue Theater and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, to name a few.

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In 1969, the 41st Academy Awards moved to the brand-new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles; the ceremonies have moved back and forth between the Shrine in Beverly Hills and the Dorothy Chandler since 1986.

That was all before the Kodak Theater, part of the Hollywood & Highlands development project, revamped Hollywood, and–for the first time since 1960–brought the Oscars home to the city where it all began.

Built as part of a $615 million entertainment and retail facelift for the run-down area, the Kodak Theater (named for the Eastman Kodak Co., one of the project’s co-sponsors) is located in the brand-spanking new Hollywood & Highland shopping center on busy Hollywood Boulevard. The complex combines nightclubs, restaurants, TV broadcast facilities and studio venues and incorporates a new 640-room hotel in addition to the theater.

But it’s the theater that is the centerpiece of the complex. It was designed to resemble a 1920s movie palace with stacked opera boxes, and is furbished in cherry wood and dark red velvet. The 180,000-square-foot theater seats 3,300 people and will be host to major musical productions, concerts, comedy, dance and holiday specials throughout the year.

The architect behind the theater’s design is 42-year-old architect David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, whose projects include more than 40 Planet Hollywoods, more than a dozen New York restaurants, the renovation of Radio City Music Hall, Caesar’s Circus Maximus in Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil’s first freestanding building in the world at Disney in Orlando.

The new venue also brings good news for stargazers. Fans will not have to sleep in the cold for first dibs on the 400 coveted public seats outside the Kodak Theater. A decision was made to sell reservations for the bleacher seats on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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The Academy Awards will be presented on March 24 at the Kodak Theater, six weeks after the nominations are announced on February 12.

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