Kodak woes draw Oscar theater jabs

LOS ANGELES Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:37pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The bankruptcy of Eastman Kodak, the once-dominant American film icon whose name was yanked from the Oscars telecast, provided irresistible fodder for Academy Awards host Billy Crystal on Sunday.

Crystal welcomed the audience to the "beautiful Chapter 11 theater!" as he kicked off the awards show. Later, he called the 3,400-seat Hollywood venue the "your-name-here" theater.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced last week it was removing Kodak's name from the Oscars telecast.

Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year. The company's star began to fade in the late 1990s as digital technology began chipping away at its century-long stronghold on film distribution.

Kodak had signed a $74 million deal in 2000 for naming rights for the venue that hosts the Academy Awards and also houses a production of Cirque du Soleil.

The Oscar deal was an enormous marketing opportunity for Kodak's brand because the Academy Awards annually is the second most-watched event on TV behind football's Super Bowl. Last year's telecast was viewed by 37.6 million people.

But under bankruptcy law, the company was able to reject the remainder of its 20-year commitment and get its name removed from the theater immediately.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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