February 1, 2012

Wow the Oscars Can't Catch a Break This Year...

Kodak’s bankruptcy has left studios out millions and the landlord for the Oscar theater in the market for a new sponsor.

Since the Academy Awards moved to the Kodak Theater at Hollywood & Highland a decade ago, the 131-year-old company’s name has been synonymous with the Academy Awards.
That could soon change. On Wednesday, the 131-year company asked a U.S. bankruptcy court judge to allow it to get out of its $75 million naming rights deal with the real estate company behind the complex.
If Kodak gets approval to withdraw its sponsorship, CIM Group, the developer of the mall, is free to seek another corporate sponsor. But the motion picture academy's board of governors can veto the choice.
“If they wanted to name it gogo.com, we'd have a problem with that. But that's their deal, we're not a part of it,” Tom Sherak, the Academy’s president, told TheWrap.
“I guess you would say we have the right to disapprove, not approve,” he added. “Let's say they brought in Dell, we probably wouldn't disapprove that. We don't approve, but if it was something that didn't work, we'd disapprove.”
Kodak says that given its recent financial headaches, it can no longer justify the more than  $4 million it pays in fees for those naming rights.
“Kodak is proud of its important role in the Entertainment industry, and our long standing relationship with film makers,” Christopher Veronda, a spokesman for Kodak, said in a statement to TheWrap. “Our motion today reflects our commitment to ensure that we are maximizing value for our entertainment customers, creditors and other stakeholders.”

The filing states that Kodak pays a significant annual amount for, among other things, the naming rights related to the Kodak. “The Debtors have evaluated the Contract in consultation with their professional advisors and determined that any benefit related to these rights likely does not exceed or equal the Debtors’ costs associated with the Contract,” it states.
The Academy's Board of Governors is weighing a move to a new venue, but if it does not, it can nix potential sponsors.

That might be a moot point. In December, the Academy exercised an option in its 20-year deal with the owner of the Kodak that allows it to consider other venues before deciding whether to recommit to the Kodak for the final 10 years of its contract. If it does not find another location, it can always stay at the the theater.
Regardless of what happens with the Oscars, if other corporate christenings are any indication, it might even be able to make more money on the naming rights.
For example, Citigroup paid $400 million over 20 years in 2009 to have its name emblazoned above the Mets Stadium in Queens, N.Y.