Security fears and squabbles with the developer are forcing Academy Awards organizers to consider moving next year's ceremony from the nearly finished Kodak Theater--what's supposed to become the permanent Hollywood home to the Oscarcast--back to the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles.
Talks of a switch come after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave an ultimatum to TrizecHahn Corporation, the developer of the 3,600-seat Kodak Theater, to answer all concerns over the cite or face cancellation--at least for this year.
"We're hopeful as we've spent the last few years anticipating this return to Hollywood, but it's complicated," says Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger. "Security is just one of the key issues in terms of negotiating with the developers. The other is about logistics."
Specifically, the Academy is grousing that TrizecHahn has allegedly failed to stick to its promise to allow preshow bomb sweeps in the stores in the theater complex. (In addition to the new theater, the site at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue features several retail shops, a hotel and a giant ballroom.)
The other sticking point involves the so-called "Orchid Walk," a newly created pedestrian area of Orchid Avenue adjacent to the theater complex that will be the new red-carpet arrivals area. First, the Oscar folks are worried there's no designated parking area for all the satellite and media-support trucks required for the broadcast. Second, the Academy--adamant celebs like Jack Nicholson and Julia Roberts not be bombarded with ads for nearby stores like The Gap--asked for three weeks' prep time to dress up the walkway. But TrizecHahn has reneged on the deal and given the Academy only a day instead, an unacceptable time frame.
Unger says the Academy was hammering out the issues long before last week's tragedy.
"We've been talking about these things and negotiating for some time, but it appears we've taken several steps backward. Our impression was we were further along," Unger says, adding that security has become an even more pressing concern since the September 11 terror attacks.
A rep for TrizecHahn says the company is confident all differences will be worked out before the Academy's October 15 deadline.
If no agreement is reached, it would be the second time the Kodak's inaugural Oscarcast was postponed. This year's ceremony was supposed to open the complex, but the Academy was forced to use the Shrine because developers weren't able to finish construction in time.
The 2002 Oscars are scheduled to be handed out March 24.