A U.S. bankruptcy judge in New York has agreed that Eastman Kodak Co. can get out of its $72 million naming deal for Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.
Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper on Wednesday approved a request by the troubled Rochester, N.Y. company to be allowed to abandon the agreement in order to save money as it reorganizes. Eastman Kodak, which has been hurt by the transition from film to digital technology, filed for Chapter 11 last month.
Kodak signed the naming-rights agreement in 2000, which calls for it to pay $3.6 million annually. It still owes $38 million on the 20-year contract.
Gropper did not rule on whether signage and other Kodak branding should be removed from the 3,400-seat theater at the Hollywood & Highland Center prior to Feb. 26 Academy Awards, which the facility has hosted for nearly 10 years.
Theater and mall owner CIM Group sought to block the name change, arguing it needed time to find a new sponsor, and that Kodak would until then continue to benefit from its association with the facility.
During the hearing in his Manhattan courtroom, Gropper disagreed, joking that it anything, Kodak’s financial woes likely would become the butt of jokes during the telecast of the awards ceremony.
“If you believe it would be better to leave the sign up, I suppose the result will be (awards show host) Billy Crystal will make some joke about this being the Kodak Theater and Kodak being in Chapter 11,” said Gropper, according to Reuters..
The judge said the two parties should first try to work out the transition schedule between themselves before any discussion of damages.