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Oscar telecast might leave Kodak Theatre

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For years, the Academy Awards were largely a nomadic event, migrating between several venues in the Los Angeles area before settling nearly 10 years ago at the sparkling new Kodak Theatre in the heart of Hollywood.

This year, the show will decide whether to pack up its gold statues and move elsewhere.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak as saying the group would exercise a clause in its 20-year contract with the Kodak’s owners, CIM Group, that will allow the non-profit to explore other locations for the show. Representatives for the Academy did not dispute The Hollywood Reporter story, but declined to comment further on the record until after the New Year’s holiday.

“Our plan right now is to exercise this [option] and then see what happens, what goes on. We’re open,” Sherak told THR’s Alex Ben Block. “Personally, I love the Kodak. I’ll say that until I’m blue in the face. I’ve been there since the very beginning. But in the next year the Kodak and others will come to us and the [Academy] board will make a decision at some point.”

A PR representative for CIM refused to comment. The change wouldn’t happen until after the 2013 show.

The Oscars are watched by between 30 and 40 million viewers each year, and the naming right to the Kodak Theatre has been a major source of revenue for CIM, mostly because of the prestige of the Academy Awards.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak Company agreed to pay $75 million over 20 years for the name, aligning its company identity each year with the biggest motion picture event in Hollywood. In 2005, Front Row Marketing estimated the value of Kodak’s exposure during the telecast alone — not to mention all the award season and post-show media reports — to be about $6.98 million.

The Academy’s exploration of other venues doesn’t mean the Kodak Theatre is definitely out, but it gives the Academy leverage to renegotiate its tenancy, and maybe find something that better suits its needs. Since the Oscars settled into the Kodak, other venues have opened in the Los Angeles area that could work for the ABC telecast, including downtown’s Nokia Theatre. The Nokia previously lured the American Idol finale away from the Kodak, and has 7,100 seats — more than double the Kodak’s 3,332 capacity.

That would solve a perennial complaint about the Kodak — its shortage of tickets on Oscar night.