The Dolby Theatre (formerly known as the Kodak Theatre), is one of the world’s biggest and technologically advanced entertainment venues that is located at the heart of the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, within the Ovation Hollywood shopping mall and entertainment complex. Having great design and equipped with ultra vivid color of Dolby Vision and surround sound technology of Dolby Atmos, one of the most advanced sound systems of the world, this live-performance auditorium is most reputed as home of the prestigious Academy Awards. Designed and developed mainly to cater to the need of staging the grand Oscar ceremonies, this venue has also hosted several other significant events and shows besides the Oscars.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has been grandly celebrating the best of cinema by organizing and presenting the Academy Awards ceremonies and honoring excellence and achievements in the American and international film industry for over nine decades now. This oldest entertainment awards ceremony has with time emerged as one of the world’s most prestigious and significant film award ceremonies, and is eagerly awaited by both professionals from the film industry as well as movie lovers. Since its inception, the award ceremony has been held at many venues. It has over the time also adopted several changes to keep pace with the constantly developing world of cinema. However while presenting this grand event in different venues like Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Shrine Auditorium at different times the AMPAS faced several logistical issues which finally led it to look for an appropriate venue for the event. This resulted in development of the live-performance auditorium called Dolby Theatre (earlier called Kodak Theatre) as part of the Ovation Hollywood shopping center and entertainment complex.
AMPAS entered into negotiations with the Canadian development firm TrizecHahn in August 1997 to come up with an entertainment complex adjacent to the movie palace Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. In early next year, both the parties concurred on a 20-year lease that permitted presentation of the Academy Awards event at the entertainment complex. The American public company called Eastman Kodak Company, paid $75 million to purchase the right to name the building which was christened as the Kodak Theatre. The company however started to face financial problems during the late 1990s which eventually led it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2012. It sponsored the theatre until next month and ended the naming rights agreement before the 84th Academy Awards ceremony. For the next few months, the theatre was temporarily named as the Hollywood and Highland Center until a 20-year naming rights agreement was signed with Dolby Labs and from May 1, 2012, the venue got its present name, Dolby Theatre.
The Dolby Theatre, construction cost of which was $94 million, was designed especially keeping the Academy Awards ceremonies in consideration. American architect and designer David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group designed the theatre that can accommodate 3332 people. The stage of the theatre, which is counted among the largest in the country, is 113 feet in width and 60 feet in depth and approximately ties with that of the Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University. The Dolby Theatre has an effective and high functioning cable infrastructure with a cable bunker situated beneath the surface of the ground; and a distinct compartment in the orchestra seating area designed by Rockwell for management of stage, sound and camera. The hall of the building starting from the front entrance to the grand staircase is surrounded by Art Deco columns and storefronts. Names of winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture thus far are displayed in these columns with some spaces kept blank to be filled by names of future Best Picture winners. Presently these columns can accommodate names of winners of Best Picture till 2071. The grand staircase leads one to the actual theater that is situated at the back part of shopping complex and has an elaborately designed interior.
The theatre was opened on November 9, 2001. Starting from the 74th Academy Awards ceremony (2002), it has remained home for the annual Academy Awards ceremonies, barring only the 2021 held 93rd Academy Awards ceremony that was downsized and presented at the Los Angeles Union Station because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dolby Theatre is specially equipped with the revolutionary spatial audio technology of Dolby Atmos and 215 individually powered loudspeakers that create an immersive and high quality sound environment in which sound can be perceived as three-dimensional objects leading one to experience multi-dimensional sound with remarkable clarity; and Dolby Vision that enables finer screen resolution and contrast, giving the guests more true-to-life viewing experience.
Over the years, this technically robust theatre has also remained a venue for many televised theatrical performances, concerts, award presentations and other events. These include the 3rd Annual Latin Grammy Awards (2002); season finales of the American singing competition TV series American Idol (2002, 2004 -07, 2015, 2016); the resident Cirque du Soleil show Iris (September 2011 to January 2013) for which the venue went through several major changes which includes creating stage lifts; and the American talent show competition TV series America's Got Talent (2016-19, 2021).
During the Academy Awards ceremonies the building gets embellished which at times includes putting another sign on its frontage, covering the storefronts with red drapery and use of red carpet to walk into the theater. The red-carpet area with time has become a famous and main attraction spot of this high-profile gala celebrity event where the megastars of Hollywood and international film industry make a grand entry, showcase themselves and pose for the paparazzi.