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banner Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 07:16 GMT
Kodak welcomes the Oscars home
The Kodak Theater
Preparations are well in hand inside the plush new venue
This year's Oscars ceremony on 24 March takes place in its new home, the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles - marking a return to the part of town which first staged the ceremony in 1929. The BBC's Peter Bowes reports.

This year's Oscars ceremony marks the dawning of a new era in the 74-year history of the Academy Awards.

For the first time, showbusiness's most prestigious awards show has a permanent home - the Kodak Theater.

The theatre is located at one of LA's best known intersections - the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Here it is part of a glittering $615m (424m) entertainment complex designed to breath new life into rundown Hollywood.

As the name implies, the development received substantial financial backing from the Kodak company.

The Kodak Theatre
The Kodak Theater received a fanfare opening

The complex also includes dozens of stores, a 640-room, four-star hotel and a multi-screen cinema which is an extension to the legendary Chinese Theater next door.

The move to the traditional heart of Hollywood, away from downtown venues like the Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, will bring a number of benefits.

The new theatre is purpose built for the occasion and incorporates hi-tech broadcast facilities necessary to beam the show to an estimated global audience of one billion people.

The Hollywood location also makes the venue more accessible for the stars. It is a short-hop limousine drive from most celebrities' homes in the nearby Hollywood Hills and leafy Beverly Hills. Above all, the new venue is viewed as bringing the Oscars back home.

Tourism

The first ever Academy Awards presentation, a relatively low-key, black-tie dinner, took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on 16 May, 1929.

The hotel, a cherished Hollywood landmark, is situated across the street from the new Kodak Theater and is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment as part of the area's revitalisation.

While most Hollywood studios have now shifted their film-making operations to the outer suburbs of Los Angeles, or to the dismay of some, away from Tinsel town altogether, the Paramount Studio remains on nearby Melrose Avenue.

Hollywood and Highland:
Hollywood and Highland: A hugely ambitious project

The birth of the Kodak Theater complex is therefore viewed more as an attempt to boost tourism rather than recreate old-style Hollywood.

Celebrities will no doubt welcome the new theatre's close proximity to the main Oscar party venues.

After an Academy Awards ceremony lasting up to four hours, followed by the obligatory Governor's Ball, most weary stars move on to lavish parties at restaurants in West Hollywood.

The Kodak Theater itself has some limitations compared with the Shrine Auditorium - the preferred venue in recent years.

The seating capacity will be dramatically reduced - from about 6,500 at the Shrine to 3,500.

Some Oscars voters - members of the Motion Picture Academy - have expressed concern that they will be denied a seat on Hollywood's biggest night.

Application forms

But perhaps the most contentious issue, regarding seating arrangements, centres around the new arrangements for the red carpet grand stand.

Traditionally, hundreds of die-hard Oscars fans have camped out on the streets to gain access to the coveted bleacher seats.

This year, a combination of security concerns and the geography of the new venue, has forced changes.

Approximately 400 seats, which will remain free of charge, will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis to people who fill out an application form in advance.

The academy is requiring people to supply personal information such as name, address, birth date, driver's licence and social security numbers in addition to a recent passport-size photo.

The move has upset a number of long-time fans - some of whom have been attending the event for more than 30 years.

They have suggested that bleacher veterans should be given preferential treatment when the academy hands out the tickets.

For many, the prize is priceless - a front row seat at the most glamorous show on earth and a photo opportunity worthy of the new picture-perfect venue.

The Oscars ceremony will be broadcast live on BBC Two on Monday 25 March from 0045-0600 GMT and reported live on BBC News Online.

See also:

13 Sep 01 | Film
Hollywood 'changed forever'
20 Sep 01 | Film
Oscars move threatened
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Links to more Oscars 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


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