The Eastman Kodak Company announced last Friday that it will contribute $10 million to the Eastman Theatre renovation and expansion project. The plans include renovations that will enhance the acoustic quality of the theater and the addition of a new building that will provide more performance and teaching spaces for the Eastman School of Music.

“Kodak has had a close relationship and a strong partnership with the University and the RPO throughout their history, a bond that began with George Eastman and is stronger today,” Kodak CEO and Chairman Antonio Perez said in a press release. To honor Kodak’s support, the space will be renamed Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

“Kodak does have a history of assisting in past projects, though not as dramatic as this,” Dean of Eastman School of Music Douglas Lowry said.

Over the last 20 years, Kodak has provided close to $10 million for UR in support of projects varying from imaging research to assisting the Simon School of Business. In 1971, Kodak provided $2.5 million for renovations to the Eastman Theatre.

The $10 million disbursement for the current renovation and expansion project is provided through the Kodak Rochester Economic Development Fund, which was established in 2004 as a means to invest in the Rochester community.

Kodak Manager of Corporate Media Relations Krista Gleason explained that the decision to assist the Eastman Theatre project was not only in the interest of the University but also the city of Rochester.

“The Eastman Theatre renovation and expansion will benefit the entire community, add to our already rich cultural and educational vitality and make Rochester an even more attractive place to live, work, do business and raise a family,” Gleason said.

Renovations to the main performance theater will include reducing the number of seats, providing new box seating, shortening the rear of the hall to improve acoustics and expanding the narrow lobby areas. Since the theater was initially designed for silent films, the acoustic demands have increased significantly over time, which required a reduction in the volume of the theater.

“The theater now has about 3,200 seats and will be ‘down-sized’ to 2,250, much more in line with large halls across the United States that host events with large ensembles like the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Eastman Philharmonia and the Rochester Philharmonic,” Lowry said. “Once completed, the space will offer Eastman students an elegant facility in which its large ensembles can perform.”

The project also includes plans to construct a new building adjacent and connected to the Eastman Theatre.

It will include a new recital hall, a rehearsal hall large enough to accommodate large Eastman ensembles and the RPO, teaching studios for Eastman School faculty and a new recording studio.

“The new 230-seat recital hall will ease some of the pressure on Kilbourn Hall, our primary recital hall [that is] now booked to the max,” Lowry said. “The recital hall will also be wired to the hilt so that we can utilize Internet capabilities to connect with other institutions, stream performances if desired and offer us a first-class space for chamber music.”

The new rehearsal hall will also provide an alternative for large ensembles if the Eastman Theatre is not available. Currently, these large ensembles would be displaced to smaller sub-par rooms.

“The plans also include a caf/concession area, box office, gift shop and a new disability entry to the new building and the theater,” Director of Planning and Project Management Wayne Goodwin said.

The construction of the new building is in line with founder George Eastman’s original plans.

“George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company,” Lowry said. “He also built and endowed the Eastman School of Music. His dream, though, was unfulfilled in that he wanted to wrap the building all the way to Swan Street but was prohibited from doing so because the then land owner would not sell.”

The total expense of the project is expected to reach at least $35 million. With the $10 million from Kodak, the amount raised thus far has reached $28.5 million.

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009. The entire facility, including the recital hall, is scheduled to open in early 2010.

Sanehira is a member of the class of 2011.

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