In The Dream Factory, One Story Had A Sad Ending

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byMike Keeler

The Kodak Theater in Los Angeles was built with the express purpose of hosting the world’s most noteworthy movie and TV celebrations. The Kodak has been home to the Academy Awards since its opening in 2001, and to American Idol since 2002. The stage is the largest in the United States, and was optimized for live television broadcasts. Beneath the stage is a climate-controlled bunker full of state-of-the-art recording and editing equipment, connected via underground cables to production trucks parked outside. The orchestra seating area contains a director’s cockpit for overseeing the broadcast. The theater’s grand staircase is flanked by columns displaying the winners for Best Picture going back to 1927, with plenty of room left over to include future winners for years to come.

This year, however, though the Academy Awards will be held at this venue, they won’t be broadcast from the Kodak Theater. That’s because the Eastman Kodak Company – a standard in the movie business which was launched way back in 1889 — went bust on January 19, 2012. After years of losses resulting from the world moving away from film and into digital recording, Kodak finally cried “uncle” and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Though Kodak has obtained financing to help it restructure and hopes to re-emerge as a profitable business, in the short term it has been forced to vacate its $3.5 Million-a-year obligation for the naming rights to the theater it helped create. The Kodak is no more.

Which resulted in pre-production pandemonium on Hollywood Boulevard. The folks at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences usually take several weeks leading up to the Oscars to completely re-dress the exterior of the theater with a new theme. But this year, they were also challenged with removing or covering the huge Kodak branding that loomed over the entrance. All of the hosts for the red-carpet activities had to practice a new intro, “Coming to you live from The Hollywood and Highland Center…” And, as the curtain came up and the festivities began, there was no mention of Kodak, or any discussion about the past, present, or future of recording technology.

And really, why should there be? Time has moved on. The future belongs to digital platforms and motion capture, 3D, CGI, and Avid. Here’s your hat, David Lean, and long live Pixar! Film is dead.

Except for one little asterisk. This year, ten films are nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Seven of them were shot on Kodak film.

That’s a wrap, check the gate.