Kodak Theatre Finding Success as a Budding TV Star

By DEBORAH BELGUM

Staff Reporter

Boosted by its good reviews from the Academy Awards broadcast, the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland is settling in largely as a broadcast venue rather than a conventional theater.

Many of the bookings for the rest of the year will be events made for television, highlighted by the Latin Grammys in September.

But the much hoped-for Broadway musicals are not making their way to the 3,600-seat theater that was criticized for its acoustics when it opened on Nov. 9 with singer Russell Watson and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

"It was built as a TV studio. So it would make sense that there would be lots and lots of TV there," said William Leopold of W.F. Leopold Management, representative of singer Melissa Etheridge, who gave one of the first concerts at the theater last December.

While technicians with Etheridge's tour were disappointed with the sound system, the venue is considered an excellent broadcast venue.

It has an extensive built-in cabling system that makes it easier to set up cameras without tripping over wires, and a sophisticated electrical power system that allows productions to set up several high-powered lights and sound systems at the same time. There are 22 predetermined camera locations from various angles, and large wing space to accommodate big production teams.

TV tapings

Television was the draw that got Celine Dion to choose the Kodak for her debut on March 3 after two years of semi-retirement. Her concert was broadcast on CBS-TV.

Barry Manilow made his second appearance at the concert hall on April 24, this time taping his performance for broadcast on CBS-TV.

With move-in and move-out days factored in for events, the new theater is committed for the next 230 days of the remaining 270 days in the year, said Ed Murphy, the theater's managing director.

Other televised events scheduled include ESPN's annual ESPY awards on July 10, moving to the Kodak after two years at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The change was made by a new management team, which is trying to grow the ESPY franchise.

Black Entertainment Television will hold its 2nd annual BET Awards at the Kodak on June 25. And the American Film Institute will have its Life Achievement Award there on June 12, a show that will be broadcast on USA Network. The Latin Grammys will take place on Sept. 18.

"The theater got a lot of great publicity for the Oscars, and the show just looked beautiful," said Ron Roecker, spokesman for The Latin Recording Academy, which organizes the show.

Not all the events this year are broadcast related. There are bookings for smaller productions, such as Blue's Clues Live and corporate events. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be making his first West Coast appearance May 13 when he speaks about his political experience and the Sept. 11 aftermath.

Additionally, theater managers are negotiating with the American Ballet Theatre for the return of "The Nutcracker," which was popular last year.

'Producers' at Pantages

But larger-scale musical productions have been elusive. Organizers of the Broadway musical "The Producers" had been considering the Kodak for its L.A. engagement but instead booked the 2,700-seat Pantages Theatre down the road. That production opens in May 2003.

"The Full Monty" was scheduled to go to the Kodak this April, but after the tour folded last year and new producers took over, the musical went to the Ahmanson Theatre where it is playing until June 8.

At the time the new location was announced for "The Full Monty," one of the show's producers, Kevin McCollum, cited his previous success at the Ahmanson when "Rent" was booked there in 1997. He also praised the Ahmanson's subscription audience, which totals more than 40,000, as a factor in his decision to skip the Kodak.

For the first few months after it opened, the Kodak was dogged with negative reviews about its sound system. While the theater's operators deny there are any acoustical problems, concerts have been intermittent. Prince played recently and Elvis Costello is coming soon. About eight Persian and Asian concerts have been booked into the theater for later this year, from a Chinese pianist to an Iranian violinist.

In recent weeks, employees from Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates the theater, have been taking producers, celebrities and concert organizers on a public relations tour that has helped the Kodak capture more bookings.

"We have been aggressively marketing the theater to the entertainment industry as well as the corporate community," said Michael Roth, spokesman for the Anschutz Entertainment. "We've scheduled a number of walk-throughs for not only the agents and managers, but for talent and network executives."

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