Oscars: When Did Dolby Theatre Los Angeles Become Home to the Academy Awards?

The 2021 Oscar Awards will not be in their usual home of the Dolby Theatre Los Angeles. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the 2021 Academy Awards will be held at Union Station. The Dolby Theatre Los Angeles will still be waiting for the Oscars when it is safe to hold a large ceremony with 1000s of guests indoors. In the meantime, we can still get our Dolby Theatre fix with a little Oscars history. 

The Dolby Theatre Los Angeles opened in 2001

From 1998 to 2001, the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. was under construction. If you’ve ever driven through Hollywood, you’ll know that’s not exactly a low traffic area. The intersection is home to much rush hour traffic from commuters going both ways.

The Hollywood and Highland complex opened Nov. 2001. Next to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the complex housed six more screens which often host press screenings, overflow from movie premieres and film festivals. Otherwise, it is a normal theater. Hollywood and Highland also has shops and restaurants, and the Kodak Theatre.

The Kodak Theatre was included as a venue for big shows, intended to house the Oscars. The first Oscars held at the Kodak were in 2002. Dolby took over for Kodak in 2012 and rebranded the theater as the Dolby Theatre Los Angeles. The first Oscars under the Dolby banner were in 2013. The Dolby currently seats over 3400, which it also fills for public events like PaleyFest. 

Before the Dolby Theatre Los Angeles, the Oscars were downtown

The Oscars were looking for new space. From 1988 to 2001, the Academy alternated between the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Center in Downtown Los Angeles and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Pasadena, California.

The Shrine had hosted the Oscars in 1948 and 1949, but then had a long gap (see below). The Dorothy Chandler was home to the Oscars from 1970 through 1987. 

More historic locations before the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

The Oscars moved every decade or so. From 1961 to 1969 they were in Santa Monica. Although that’s near the beach, the ceremony was still indoors at the Civic Auditorium. 

From 1950 to 1961, the Oscars were at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, when it was owned by RKO. The Pantages is now a live theater venue for touring productions. 

From 1944 – 1947, the Oscars were held at the Grauman’s Chinese theater. The historic cinema seats over 1000, which suited the growing Academy but would prove too small before long.

From the first Oscars in 1929 to 1943, the Oscars were intimate enough to be conducted out of hotel ballrooms. Some of the spots include the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Biltmore and the Ambassador.

Source: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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