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Architect: David Rockwell
First Opened: 9th November 2001 (21 years ago)
Former Names: Kodak Theatre
Telephone: (323) 308-6300
Hollywood’s 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, was designed as a permanent home for the annual Academy Awards ceremony (The Oscars), and having opening in November 2001 has hosted The Oscars every year since. The theatre is located in the heart of Hollywood, within the Hollywood & Highland entertainment and shopping complex.
David Rockwell, founder of the Rockwell Group , designed the theatre in conjunction with Theatre Projects Consultants who provided concept design, theatre planning, and theatre equipment design/specification services.
A core component of the design was ensuring large-scale television/broadcast events could use the theatre effectively, both technically and in appearance, and as such leading industry professionals were consulted extensively throughout the planning and design phases.
Notable technical features include:
The design of the auditorium sought to blend glamour with function, which Rockwell considers a modern interpretation inspired by theatres of the 1920s.
The main level comprises Orchestra / Main Floor seating with the Parterre located behind a small break in height.
There are three balconies (called Mezzanine 1, 2, and 3) which are flanked with boxes on each side, stepping down toward the proscenium.
The ceiling features a striking silver tiara which extends vertically down to the auditorium floor, while also being practical in providing concealed cable runs and flexible cove lighting positions in the auditorium ceiling.
A major component of the theatre is its five-level grand lobby, in part inspired by the Paris Opera House where large lobbies allow everyone to see and be seen – something considered crucial to the theatre’s Hollywood aspirations at the time of design.
The stage is among the largest of indoor theatres in the United States, slightly smaller than both the Shrine Auditorium and Radio City Music Hall, however the theatre’s seating capacity is significantly less than both – around half.
The theatre opened on 9th November 2001 with a gala concert starring British tenor Russell Watson along with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Choir.
The Dolby Theatre played host to Cirque du Soleil’s Iris , an acrobatic journey through the world of cinema, from mid-2011 until early 2013. Although initially booked for a run of 10 years with a month-long break each spring for The Oscars, the show closed in early 2013 due to poor ticket sales. Cirque du Soleil made significant changes to the theatre, including adding stage lifts extending 44ft under the original stage floor, at a cost of approximately $40 million.
In January 2012 Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in February won court approval to remove its name from the theatre. Landlord CIM/H&H Media had sought to compel Kodak to continue with their 20-year naming rights deal, signed in 2000 and worth $72 million.
At the start of May 2012 it was announced that Dolby Laboratories had signed a 20-year deal taking over the naming rights. Simultaneously the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that, after entertaining multiple offers to relocate, it had negotiated a new 20-year deal to keep the Academy Awards at the theatre. The first premiere to be held at the newly renamed Dolby Theatre was Pixar’s “Brave” on 18th June 2012.
In August 2017 the City of Los Angeles purchased the theatre for $100,000 from CRA/LA, the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, which was being disbanded. The City had issued $43.21 million in April 1999 in taxable bonds for the construction of the theatre, and with $28.3 million still owing the City had to control the property. The 99-year lease to CIM Group for operation of the theatre was not affected by the change in ownership.
As of 2018 the Dolby Theatre plays host to a healthy number of live events in addition to TV tapings and award shows. The Oscars continue to be broadcast to a global audience from the theatre, and since 2016 America’s Got Talent has hosted all live shows from the theatre.
The Dolby Theatre runs tours seven days a week, every hour on the hour from 11am to 3pm, except when theatre operations prevent tours from taking place.
The docent-led walking tour lasts 30 minutes and includes a visit to the Dolby Lounge where you will see a real Oscar statue. Access to the theatre and particularly the stage is at the discretion of the visiting company and/or theatre operations on the day and is not guaranteed. Tickets are $25 (Seniors/Youth $19) and may only be purchased from the Dolby Theatre Box Office in person. Advance bookings are not usually necessary. Further information is available on the Dolby Theatre’s website . Box Office times are listed here .
Photographs copyright © 2002-2023 Mike Hume / Historic Theatre Photos unless otherwise noted.
Text copyright © 2017-2023 Mike Hume / Historic Theatre Photos.
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