University of Rochester
Historic Partnership

Introducing Kodak Hall

Rochester company commits $10 million to help complete founder’s vision for school and storied theater.

Standing on the stage of the theater that is synonymous with his company’s deep ties to the University and to the Rochester community, Antonio Perez, chairman and CEO of the Eastman Kodak Company, added a new chapter to that historic partnership.

perez and seligman

HISTORIC MOMENT: Antonio Perez, Kodak chairman and CEO, acknowledges a standing ovation after announcing his company’s $10 million commitment to renovating Eastman Theatre as President Joel Seligman joins in the applause.

Perez announced in April that Kodak is committing $10 million toward the University’s project to renovate Eastman Theatre.

“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,” Perez said during a historic announcement that featured ensembles from both the Eastman School and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

“We know the arts are important to our local economy and quality of life,” he said. “This project will add to the rich cultural and educational vitality of our community, and help companies such as Kodak continue to offer employees not only a great place to work, but a vibrant place to live and raise their families.”

In recognition of the company’s commitment, the performance hall in the theater will be renamed “Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre” when renovations are complete.

The renovations are part of an estimated greater than $35 million project to expand the theater and to build additional teaching and performance spaces—a project that would complete the company founder’s original vision for the Eastman School and Eastman Theatre.

“The University is deeply grateful for Kodak’s support, which reflects the long and enduring partnership between Kodak and the University,” said President Joel Seligman. “Kodak’s investment will have far-reaching benefits for the Eastman School of Music, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the people of Rochester, who will enjoy an enhanced performance hall and the economic development benefits that will come from construction and an increasingly vibrant cultural district downtown.”

Kodak’s support is provided through the company’s Rochester Economic Development Fund, which was created in 2004 to invest in the local community. The announcement is an extension of the longstanding relationship between Kodak, the University, and the RPO.

Eastman Theatre, the elegant 85-year-old Rochester landmark, was built by George Eastman and is owned by the University. The building is the home of the Eastman School and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, which presented its first concert in the theater in March 1923. Such luminaries as Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Beverly Sills, Louis Armstrong, George Gershwin, Marian McPartland, and Renée Fleming have performed on its stage.

The theater is also used by a variety of community organizations for performances and special events such as high school graduations. Eastman Theatre and the Eastman School’s smaller performance venues host more than 700 concerts each year.

“This is a defining moment,” said Douglas Lowry, dean of the Eastman School. “That our landmark theatrical venue will bear the name of the company founded by George Eastman is truly historic. Even more, the Eastman Theatre renovation and expansion project will enhance the school as a world leader in presenting new ideas and enterprises in music teaching and performance. Undoubtedly, Kodak’s support dramatically advances that cause.”

In a joint statement, RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman and President Charles Owens said, “The long-held dream of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra to have a world-class, 21st-century concert hall in which to inspire and enrich our community has now become reality. With this support, Kodak and Mr. Perez have enabled us to fulfill one of our most critical strategic initiatives in creating a vibrant future for the Orchestra. The entire RPO family—our board, musicians, staff, and patrons—is indebted to everyone who has worked so tirelessly to ensure the transformation of the RPO’s entire concert experience.”

Renovations to the theater are designed to enhance the concert experience for the audience and performers. They include a plan to reduce the number of seats inside the main performance hall. When complete, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre will seat 2,250. The removal of some 800 seats at the back of the orchestra level will allow for wider aisles, the addition of box seats, and expansion of the lobby, and will improve acoustics.

A new building, to be constructed next to Eastman Theatre, will include a 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 site of the addition was included in the original facility plans but was unavailable when ground was broken for the original building in 1920.

The University has also received $13 million for the project from New York State, secured in 2007 under the leadership of Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Assemblyman David Gantt.

Construction is scheduled to occur between July 2008 and late 2009 or early 2010. While the construction of the new addition will occur throughout the entire 18-month construction period, the renovation of the main hall of the theater will occur during the summers of 2008 and 2009. The RPO season and Eastman School concerts presented in the theater during the academic year will not be affected.