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When Eastman Kodak (OTC: EKDKQ.PK) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, the photo veteran needed to find cash and cut costs -- fast. One of its first actions was to cancel the sponsoring relationship with the Kodak Theatre, where the Academy Awards are held every year. The company signed a 20-year deal when the venue was built to pay $75 million in installments, and that was 12 years ago.
So that move removed something like $30 million of liabilities from Kodak's balance sheet. Seen another way, the sponsorship was worth about $3.8 million a year. And the venue's owners, an arm of privately held private equity firm Orchard Capital, would love to slap a new name on the marquee sign and collect some cash for that privilege.
According to Bloomberg, Dolby Laboratories (NYSE: DLB ) has stepped up to the plate, and that makes plenty of sense. Attaching the Dolby brand to the Oscars would help with keeping the audio and video technologist's brand current and in contact with consumers. The Academy is currently renegotiating its lease of the theatre, and may want a say in the choice of sponsors. But that shouldn't be a big problem -- Dolby has a long history in Hollywood and plenty of goodwill in the industry.
I could easily imagine a few other movie-related companies getting into the bidding here, though. Forget the studios, because hosting the Oscars in the Walt Disney Arena might look like favoritism. No, more realistic choices would include huge-screen projectionist IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX ) and 3-D expert RealD (NYSE: RLD ) . Like Kodak and Dolby, these companies work with pretty much everyone in the industry and would provide a bias-free sponsor relationship with the venue's biggest customer.
RealD and IMAX are also looking for major growth while Dolby is more into maintaining its already huge footprint. That's why a bigger bid from a smaller player might make sense. And on that note, shouldn't Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) look into a bid as well? That's another movie-related company with huge growth plans and a large marketing budget, paired with a total lack of Oscar-race bias.
Tom and David Gardner have crushed the market for a decade in the Stock Advisor newsletter service. One of the potential Kodak Theatre sponsors mentioned here is one of the core stocks on both sides of that scorecard right now. Grab a free 30-day trial pass to Stock Advisor to find out which one -- the answer might surprise you!