The Academy Awards are just around the corner, and once again they are being held in Hollywood, in what is now known as the Dolby Theatre. But the Oscars have hopped around all of Los Angeles since the first ceremony in 1929. In chronological order:
- The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Just across the street (and down a block) from the Dolby Theatre, this is where the very first Academy Awards were handed out. As this was before the advent of television, the event was tiny and clubby: the hotel's "Blossom Room", where it took place, is a mere 4,400 square feet. (That's just a quarter of the size of the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom, where the Golden Globes are held today.) Have I been there? Numerous times. I've poked my nose into the Blossom Room once or twice. Nothing to see, really.
- The Ambassador Hotel. Once an epicenter of Los Angeles society, the Ambassador's fabled Cocoanut Grove was the site of the second Oscars. The following year, the ceremony was held in the Ambassador's Fiesta Room. The hotel was the chosen Oscar venue six times during the '30s and early '40s. Alas, Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 assassination inside the hotel set it on a downward path; as the surrounding neighborhood grew seedier in the '70s, the Ambassador suffered. It closed in 1989 and was razed in 2005. A cluster of public schools named after RFK stands there now. Have I been there? Nope. I was too late.
- The Biltmore Hotel. During the Academy Awards' early years, their location would alternate between the Ambassador and the elegant Biltmore in downtown LA. The Oscars were held here five times, in two rooms. Have I been there? Thus far I have only looked inside. But I hear they serve a smashing high tea.
- Grauman's Chinese Theatre. A stone's throw from both the Dolby and the Roosevelt, this Hollywood landmark seems like a no-brainer as an Oscar venue. But it hosted the awards just thrice, back in the mid 1940s. Have I been there? Many times, to see many movies.
- The Shrine Auditorium. A couple blocks away from USC, in an otherwise unappetizing neighborhood, the Shrine is an orgy of Moorish kitsch, built in the '20s. The third act of King Kong (1933) was filmed here, Michael Jackson's hair was set ablaze during a Pepsi Commercial shot here, and ten Academy Awards ceremonies were held here, the last in 2001. Have I been there? Not to the auditorium itself, but I attended a "Swedish Christmas Fair" in the attached expo center, during which the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis gave a reading before the Santa Lucia girls walked up with candles on their heads. Only in LA.
- The Pantages Theatre. This gorgeous Art Deco venue, on Hollywood Blvd. but a good mile or so away from the Dolby, was the Oscars' home throughout the '50s. And here I should point out that in fact there have been ten Oscar venues in LA, making it awkward for this list: the 1949 ceremony was held at the "Academy Award Theater", then the Academy's headquarters. This was on Melrose Ave. in a theater once called the Marquis. It was razed after the Academy moved to its current home on Wilshire in the 1970s. Have I been there? To the Pantages, yes, once. I saw The Book of Mormon there last year. And curiously, in 1996 I worked at a Web design company located on the former spot of the Marquis/Academy Theater as well.
- The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The Oscars' Swinging Sixties were mostly spent in this mid-century modern building, which opened in 1958, shortly before hosting the show for the first time. The Civic holds the distinction of being the only Academy Awards venue outside Los Angeles city limits. Wait, did I just say that? Because that's wrong: During the second half of the 1950s, each Oscar ceremony took place simultaneously in LA and New York; those two Big Apple theaters bring the total number of Oscar venues up to twelve. Have I been there? To the Civic, just once; I saw My Bloody Valentine play here during their reunion tour a few years ago.
- The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. For us Gen-X'ers, this place was synonymous with the Academy Awards. From 1969 all the way through 1987, this was the exclusive home of the Oscars. And the show was held here several times after that, most recently in 1999. (During this latter era, if the Oscars weren't at the Dorothy Chandler, they were at the Shrine.) Have I been there? A couple of times, for classical concerts. I once saw Björk play here too.
- The Kodak/Dolby Theatre. The current and supposedly "permanent" location of the Oscars, this theater opened as the Kodak in 2001, hosting its debut Academy Awards in 2002. When Kodak declared bankruptcy in early 2012, they lost the naming rights to the building (awkwardly, just weeks before the Oscars). Dolby took over those rights a few months later. For a few years, this was where another "permanent" show was performed: Cirque Du Soleil's Iris. Alas, Iris was meant to stay for at least a decade, but it closed after a year and a half due to middling ticket sales. Have I been there? Yes, to see Iris.