Emmys to Move if Hotel Project Is Built

Zabel: 'The Emmy telecast has always been next to the Governor's Ball. I don't anticipate that changing.'

By DAVID GREENBERG
Staff Reporter

Officials of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences want to host the Emmy Awards at a theater planned to be developed next to the Staples Center downtown but only if a major hotel and ballroom are part of the project.

The ballroom is considered a dealmaker, or breaker, because the academy needs an adjacent venue in which to hold its post-awards ceremony Governor's Ball.

Officials of the Academy met two weeks ago with the developer of Staples II, Anschutz Entertainment Group, which proposed that the awards be held every year at a 7,000-seat theater being built as part of the $1 billion Staples II retail and entertainment project.

"The Emmy telecast has historically always been next to the Governor's Ball. I don't anticipate that changing it's practical," said Bryce Zabel, the academy's chairman. "You can't have 5,000 people watching this thing and then have 2,000 or 3,000 boarding a bus or in their cars going someplace else. They need to walk to dinner."

The theater and hotel are both components of AEG's $1 billion Staples II proposal. The hotel's prospects have dimmed in recent months due to collapsing demand for downtown hotel rooms and political resistance to AEG's request for a multimillion-dollar city subsidy. L.A. Mayor James Hahn rejected the request outright, though city officials are now working on financing alternatives to get the hotel built.

Winning the Emmy Awards as an anchor event would bring considerable momentum to Staples II, said sources close to the talks. But the proposed 7,000-seat theater is expected to draw big-name acts, and be profitable, with or without the Emmys.

The awards presentation has had many venues over the years: the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, the Shrine Auditorium, and most recently, at the Shubert Theatre in Century City after the ceremony was postponed twice due to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The 4 million-square-foot Staples II development, slated for a site adjacent to the Staples Center, is formally billed as "L.A. Live." Other components of the project include office, retail, residential and other entertainment facilities.

Zabel said AEG wants to have the theater ready to host the Emmys in 2005. AEG also built the Staples Center, which hosts the Grammy Awards, and it operates the Kodak Theatre, new home of the Academy Awards.

While AEG officials declined to comment about its negotiations for the Emmys, Zabel said they went so far as to offer academy officials a chance to alter the theater designs to optimize the Emmy presentation.

"It's what's on the table right now," said Zabel. "If somebody is willing to let the academy have full input into the design of the theater, what's not to like about that? I presume if they are proposing it, they have the ability to deliver on it."

Tickets from the awards event ($200 to $600 each), the Governor's Ball ($600 each) and licensing fees from network telecasts (undisclosed) generate a sizeable portion of the academy's revenues.

As for project financing, L.A. tourism officials vowed to push city officials to approve a subsidy because the new hotel would help the nearby Los Angeles Convention Center remain competitive with other regional venues.

Currently, the three hotels within a half-mile radius of the center have a combined 686 rooms, according to the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau. By comparison, there are 4,500 and 2,650 rooms, respectively, within the same distance of convention centers in Anaheim and San Diego.

"The (AEG) headquarters hotel will allow us to maintain a competitive position in a West Coast market that has recently developed a lot better mouse traps," said Michael Collins, executive vice president of the bureau, the sales and marketing arm of the convention center. "(But a subsidy) will require a broad consensus from all city leaders. It's not necessarily going to come from any one particular part of city government."

Meanwhile, losing the Emmy Awards would be a blow to the Shrine Auditorium, which already has lost the Academy Awards though the facility still books a variety of events that keep it occupied nearly 200 days per year, one source said.

The Shrine continues to host the Screen Actors Guild Awards, American Music Awards and MTV Entertainment Awards, for which producers must lease space for two or three weeks to prepare each event.

Additionally, numerous musical artists, such as Mary J. Blige, Enrique Iglesias and Maxwell, have performed or will soon perform there. The facility also has hosted a string of musicals and pop concerts by European, Chinese, Indian and Filipino artists hoping to make a name for themselves in the lucrative American market.

USC's business, medicine and cinema departments also stage their graduation ceremonies at the Shrine, as do several area high schools.

"The building is a great fit for the shows we brought there," said Michael Ruthig, publicity manager for Clear Channel Entertainment, which booked the Blige, Iglesias and Maxwell acts. "And these acts are superstar acts."

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