The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent a seismic shock through Hollywood with its decision to move the 2004 Oscars up a month to February. How would Hollywood handle an even bigger Oscar move — to New York City?
It’s hard to imagine such a move, but a group of high-powered New York-based film folk are campaigning to have the Academy move some or all of next spring’s 75th annual Academy Awards to Manhattan. Spearheading the drive are Miramax co-chief Harvey Weinstein and James Dolan, president of Cablevision, which owns Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. Other supporters include Gotham-based filmmakers Robert De Niro and Spike Lee, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and New York Governor George Pataki, the New York Times reports.
Behind the proposal is a post-Sept. 11 desire to tout the city as a tourist attraction once again and to bring to New York the tens of millions of dollars a major awards show typically pumps into the local economy. ”We want to make a statement that we are alive, we are well — that this is the most attractive, highest-profile city in the world,” Dolan tells the Times. ”This is not a damaged city.”
Hosting even a part of the ceremony in New York is not unprecedented; the show was simulcast from both New York and Los Angeles between 1953 and 1957. Still, the Academy’s emotional attachment to Hollywood remains strong. ”We don’t want to deny New York’s role in our industry,” Academy president Frank Pierson tells the Times. ”But when it comes to the Oscars moving to New York, we have to almost say, ‘Hey, hold on a minute, buster. Those awards belong to California.”’
On a more practical level, the Academy has a 20-year contract with the Kodak Theater in Hollywood to hold the telecast there. ”Clearly, it is an interesting idea,” Pierson says of the proposal. ”But moving the whole Oscar show to New York presents enormous problems with the contractual obligations we have with the Kodak Theater. Even splitting the show between the two cities would double the cost, while our television licensing fee remains the same.”
On the other hand, when the show moved to the Kodak Theater for the first time this spring, many industry insiders complained that the 3,100-seat theater was much smaller than the previous venue, the Shrine Auditorium, and that too few tickets were available. Dolan points out that Radio City and the Garden are both much larger halls than the Kodak Theater, and he’d even be willing to rename them ”The Kodak Radio City Music Hall” or ”Kodak Madison Square Garden” for the night in order to honor sponsorship obligations.
Weinstein, who has enjoyed Oscar bragging rights with numerous Miramax Oscar wins and nominations over the last decade, insists that his group can make the move economically feasible for the Academy. Besides, he says, ”We view this as a one-time-only event, as a nod to 9/11.” But Governor Pataki says, ”Once people do an event in New York, they want to come back again and again. Why not?”
Talking to Variety, Academy executive director Bruce Davis said, ”There’s no question we’re doing the show at the Kodak,” but he didn’t rule out airing a segment of the telecast from New York. ”We’re willing to talk. But we don’t even have a producer yet; it’s way premature to talk about it.”