Photo credit: AMPAS.
The 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday, April 25 will be held at a new venue, not because its usual Dolby Theatre home isn't available, but because the pandemic necessitated a facility change. For the first time, the Oscars will take place at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. The historic Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco architecture will be a marvelous cinematic backdrop for Hollywood's biggest night with 170 guests in attendance during an unprecedented time. How the night will unfold is a bit of a mystery, but producers Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins are promising that this year's production will "look like a movie, not like a television show,” according to a joint statement.
We will still see a glimpse of the Dolby Theatre as it is expected to be a part of "additional elements" to the show, according to People, and it will likely be the venue when the 2022 award show season rolls around. But Union Station and the Dolby haven't always been the home of the Oscars, the first show in 1929 was a very different affair and looked more like the Golden Globes than the show of today. Let's take a look back at the venues the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has used in Los Angeles for the Oscars over the years.
1929: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Many Oscar fans don't know that the very first ceremony honored two movie years: 1927 and 1928. It was held in the Blossom Ballroom of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. Tickets were only $5 for the dinner and the show, where the winners knew the outcome three months ahead of time. The presentation of the Oscars took a total of 15 minutes — remember that on Sunday when we're on the third hour of the Oscars. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is across the street from the Dolby Theatre, so that's why Hollywood is a fitting home for the Oscars.
1930–1943: Biltmore Hotel & Ambassador Hotel
"Classic Photo from 1937 Academy Awards at the Biltmore Hotel" byExperienceLA is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Oscars ceremony ping-ponged between Downtown Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel and the long-gone Ambassador Hotel. The Biltmore celebrated eight Oscar ceremonies in 1931, 1935–39, and 1941-42 while the rest were at the Ambassador's Cocoanut Grove nightclub. It's only fitting that the Oscar statuette was allegedly created on the back of a napkin by legendary MGM art director Cedric Gibbons in the Crystal Ballroom at the Biltmore, which was also where The Academy was founded in 1927. If you head down to the lobby of the downtown hotel, there are many historical images capturing the early days of the Oscar events.
1944–1946: TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theatre)
The Oscar ceremony took place for three years at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. During the 1944 celebration, military members were given free tickets to the event in honor of their service during World War II.
1947–1948: Shrine Auditorium
For two years, the Oscars moved back to Downtown L.A. to the Shrine Auditorium, which featured a 6,300-seat theater. The venue might seem familiar if you are an avid award show viewer, the Shrine is still used today for the SAG Awards.
1949: Academy Award Theatre
The ceremony was supposed to be at the Shrine Auditorium this year, but controversy ensued after there were rumors that the Oscars were only given to the Hollywood studios who financially backed the show. MGM, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount and RKO withdrew their monetary support at the last minute to avoid being mired in the mess. That left The Academy no choice but to hold the modest show in their 980-seat theater for only nominees, presenters and the press.
1950-1960: Pantages Theatre
The Pantages Theatre, now owned by Disney, is located at the famous corner of Hollywood and Vine. The show remained here for a decade and was also the site of the first national television broadcast of the ceremony in 1953, where it was simultaneously held at the former NBC International Theatre in New York City.
1961–1968: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
The Oscars headed to the beach in the 1960s at the then state-of-the-art Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, which had a 3,000 seat theater.
1969–1987: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
The Oscars always seem to find their way back downtown and that's exactly where it went for almost two decades exclusively at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater is a part of the stunning Music Center complex, where the site had the opportunity to broadcast the first global Academy Awards in 1969.
1988–2001: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion & Shrine Auditorium
The two familiar venues were used for the next 13 years while the Dolby Theater complex at Hollywood and Highland was being built. Even though Downtown L.A. is a popular location for the Oscars, The Academy wanted to bring the show home to the area where it all began: Hollywood. The Shrine Auditorium stills hold the record for the highest-rated broadcast in Oscars history with the 70th Academy Awards in 1998, which was the year Titanic won for Best Picture.
2002-2011 Kodak Theatre
2012 Hollywood and Highland Center
2013-2020 Dolby Theatre
This is the same venue with different names after Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2012 right before the ceremony. The theater had a temporary name change that year until Dolby Laboratories secured a 20-year naming rights deal. The theater was built with television-ready specifications for live broadcast and the smaller 3,332-seating capacity was done to keep the Oscars a more exclusive event.
Before you go, check out: "Los Angeles' Union Station Has Had Its Share In the Movie Spotlight Before This Year's Oscars"