The first Academy Awards presentation was held on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner function at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with an audience of about 270 people. The post-awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel. The cost of guest tickets for that night's ceremony was $5 ($70 in 2017 dollars). Fifteen statuettes were awarded, honoring artists, directors and other participants in the film-making industry of the time, for their works during the 1927–28 period. The ceremony ran for 15 minutes.
Winners were announced to media three months earlier, however, that was changed for the second ceremony in 1930. Since then, for the rest of the first decade, the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11:00 pm on the night of the awards. This method was used until an occasion when the Los Angeles Times announced the winners before the ceremony began; as a result, the Academy has, since 1941, used a sealed envelope to reveal the name of the winners.
The first Best Actor awarded was Emil Jannings, for his performances in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. He had to return to Europe before the ceremony, so the Academy agreed to give him the prize earlier; this made him the first Academy Award winner in history. At that time, the winners were recognized for all of their work done in a certain category during the qualifying period; for example, Jannings received the award for two movies in which he starred during that period, and Janet Gaynor later won a single Oscar for performances in three films. With the fourth ceremony, however, the system changed, and professionals were honored for a specific performance in a single film. For the first six ceremonies, the eligibility period spanned two calendar years.
At the 29th ceremony, held on March 27, 1957, the Best Foreign Language Film category was introduced. Until then, foreign-language films had been honored with the Special Achievement Award.
The 74th Academy Awards, held in 2002, presented the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Since 1973, all Academy Awards ceremonies always end with the Academy Award for Best Picture.See also § Special categories (below).
In addition to the Academy Award of Merit (Oscar award), there are nine honorary (non-competitive) awards presented by the Academy from time to time (except for the Academy Honorary Award, the Technical Achievement Award, and the Student Academy Awards, which are presented annually):Governors Awards:
The Academy Honorary Award (annual) (which may or may not be in the form of an Oscar statuette);
The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (since 1938) (in the form of a bust of Thalberg);
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (since 1957) (in the form of an Oscar statuette);
The Academy Scientific and Technical Awards:
Academy Award of Merit (non-competitive) (in the form of an Oscar statuette);
Scientific and Engineering Award (in the form of a bronze tablet);
Technical Achievement Award (annual) (in the form of a certificate);
The John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation (since 1978) (in the form of a medal);
The Gordon E. Sawyer Award (since 1982); and
The Academy Student Academy Awards (annual).
The Academy also awards Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.See also § Awards of Merit categories (below)
The best known award is the Academy Award of Merit, more popularly known as the Oscar statuette. Made of gold-plated britannium on a black metal base, it is 13.5 in (34.3 cm) tall, the award weighs 8.5 lb (3.856 kg) and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader's sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes. The five spokes represent the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians.
The model for the statuette is said to be Mexican actor Emilio "El Indio" Fernández. Sculptor George Stanley (who also did the Muse Fountain at the Hollywood Bowl) sculpted Cedric Gibbons' design. The statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years the bronze was abandoned in favor of britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy which is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, 24-karat gold. Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones. The only addition to the Oscar since it was created is a minor streamlining of the base. The original Oscar mold was cast in 1928 at the C.W. Shumway & Sons Foundry in Batavia, Illinois, which also contributed to casting the molds for the Vince Lombardi Trophy and Emmy Award's statuettes. From 1983 to 2015, approximately 50 Oscars were made each year in Chicago by Illinois manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company. It takes between three and four weeks to manufacture 50 statuettes. In 2016, the Academy returned to bronze as the core metal of the statuettes, handing manufacturing duties to Rock Tavern, New York-based Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. While based on a digital scan of an original 1929 Oscar, the new statuettes will retain their modern-era dimensions and black pedestal. Cast in liquid bronze from 3D-printed ceramic molds and polished, they are then electroplated in 24-karat gold by Brooklyn, New York–based Epner Technology. The time required to produce 50 such statuettes is roughly 3 months. R.S. Owens is expected to continue producing other awards for the Academy and service existing Oscars.
The origin of the name Oscar is disputed. One biography of Bette Davis, who was a president of the Academy, claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. Another claimed origin is that the Academy's Executive Secretary, Margaret Herrick, first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette's reminding her of her "Uncle Oscar" (a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce). Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick's naming and seized the name in his byline, "Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette 'Oscar'."
One of the earliest mentions of the term Oscar dates back to a Time magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards. Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. The trophy was officially dubbed the "Oscar" in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
To prevent information identifying the Oscar winners from leaking ahead of the ceremony, Oscar statuettes presented at the ceremony have blank baseplates. Until 2010, winners were expected to return the statuettes to the Academy after the ceremony and wait several weeks to have inscriptions applied. Since 2010, winners have had the option of having engraved nameplates applied to their statuettes at an inscription-processing station at the Governor's Ball, a party held immediately after the Oscar ceremony. In 2010, the R.S. Owens company made 197 engraved nameplates ahead of the ceremony, bearing the names of every potential winner. The 175 or so nameplates for non-winning nominees were recycled afterwards.
Since 1950, the statuettes have been legally encumbered by the requirement that neither winners nor their heirs may sell the statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1. If a winner refuses to agree to this stipulation, then the Academy keeps the statuette. Academy Awards not protected by this agreement have been sold in public auctions and private deals for six-figure sums. In December 2011, Orson Welles' 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane (Best Original Screenplay) was put up for auction, after his heirs won a 2004 court decision contending that Welles did not sign any agreement to return the statue to the Academy. On December 20, 2011, it sold in an online auction for US$861,542.
In 1992, Harold Russell needed money for his wife's medical expenses. In a controversial decision, he consigned his 1946 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Best Years of Our Lives to Herman Darvick Autograph Auctions, and on August 6, 1992, in New York City, the Oscar sold to a private collector for $60,500. Russell defended his action, saying, "I don't know why anybody would be critical. My wife's health is much more important than sentimental reasons. The movie will be here, even if Oscar isn't." Harold Russell is the only Academy Award-winning actor to ever sell an Oscar.
While the Oscar is owned by the recipient, it is essentially not on the open market. Michael Todd's grandson tried to sell Todd's Oscar statuette to a movie prop collector in 1989, but the Academy won the legal battle by getting a permanent injunction. Although some Oscar sales transactions have been successful, some buyers have subsequently returned the statuettes to the Academy, which keeps them in its treasury.
Since 2004, Academy Award nomination results have been announced to the public in late January. Prior to that, the results were announced in early February.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), a professional honorary organization, maintains a voting membership of 5,783 as of 2012.
Academy membership is divided into different branches, with each representing a different discipline in film production. Actors constitute the largest voting bloc, numbering 1,311 members (22 percent) of the Academy's composition. Votes have been certified by the auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (and its predecessor Price Waterhouse) for the past 83 annual awards ceremonies.
All AMPAS members must be invited to join by the Board of Governors, on behalf of Academy Branch Executive Committees. Membership eligibility may be achieved by a competitive nomination or a member may submit a name based on other significant contributions to the field of motion pictures.
New membership proposals are considered annually. The Academy does not publicly disclose its membership, although as recently as 2007 press releases have announced the names of those who have been invited to join. The 2007 release also stated that it has just under 6,000 voting members. While the membership had been growing, stricter policies have kept its size steady since then.
In 2012, the results of a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times were published describing the demographic breakdown of approximately 88% of AMPAS' voting membership. Of the 5,100+ active voters confirmed, 94% were Caucasian, 77% were male, and 54% were found to be over the age of 60. 33% of voting members are former nominees (14%) and winners (19%).
In May 2011, the Academy sent a letter advising its 6,000 or so voting members that an online system for Oscar voting would be implemented in 2013.
According to Rules 2 and 3 of the official Academy Awards Rules, a film must open in the previous calendar year, from midnight at the start of January 1 to midnight at the end of December 31, in Los Angeles County, California and play for seven consecutive days, to qualify (except for the Best Foreign Language Film). For example, the 2009 Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, was actually first released in 2008, but did not qualify for the 2008 awards as it did not play its Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles until mid-2009, thus qualifying for the 2009 awards. Foreign films must include English subtitles, and each country can submit only one film per year.
Rule 2 states that a film must be feature-length, defined as a minimum of 40 minutes, except for short subject awards, and it must exist either on a 35 mm or 70 mm film print or in 24 frame/s or 48 frame/s progressive scan digital cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels.
Producers must submit an Official Screen Credits online form before the deadline; in case it is not submitted by the defined deadline, the film will be ineligible for Academy Awards in any year. The form includes the production credits for all related categories. Then, each form is checked and put in a Reminder List of Eligible Releases.
In late December ballots and copies of the Reminder List of Eligible Releases are mailed to around 6,000 active members. For most categories, members from each of the branches vote to determine the nominees only in their respective categories (i.e. only directors vote for directors, writers for writers, actors for actors, etc.). In the special case of Best Picture, all voting members are eligible to select the nominees. In all major categories, a variant of the single transferable vote is used, with each member casting a ballot with up to five nominees (ten for Best Picture) ranked preferentially. In certain categories, including Foreign Film, Documentary and Animated Feature Film, nominees are selected by special screening committees made up of members from all branches.
In most categories the winner is selected from among the nominees by plurality voting of all members. Since 2009, the Best Picture winner has been chosen by instant runoff voting. Since 2013, re-weighted range voting has been used to select the nominees for the Best Visual Effects.
Film companies will spend as much as several million dollars on marketing to awards voters for a movie in the running for Best Picture, in attempts to improve chances of receiving Oscars and other movie awards conferred in Oscar season. The Academy enforces rules to limit overt campaigning by its members so as to try to eliminate excesses and prevent the process from becoming undignified. It has an awards czar on staff who advises members on allowed practices and levies penalties on offenders. For example, a producer of the 2009 Best Picture nominee The Hurt Locker was disqualified as a producer in the category when he contacted associates urging them to vote for his film and not another that was seen as the front-runner (The Hurt Locker eventually won).
The major awards are presented at a live televised ceremony, most commonly in late February or early March following the relevant calendar year, and six weeks after the announcement of the nominees. It is the culmination of the film awards season, which usually begins during November or December of the previous year. This is an elaborate extravaganza, with the invited guests walking up the red carpet in the creations of the most prominent fashion designers of the day. Black tie dress is the most common outfit for men, although fashion may dictate not wearing a bow-tie, and musical performers sometimes do not adhere to this. (The artists who recorded the nominees for Best Original Song quite often perform those songs live at the awards ceremony, and the fact that they are performing is often used to promote the television broadcast).
The Academy Awards is the only awards show that is televised live in all United States time zones (excluding Hawaii; they aired live in Alaska starting in 2011 for the first time since 1996), Canada, the United Kingdom, and gathers millions of viewers elsewhere throughout the world.The Oscars were first televised in 1953 by NBC, which continued to broadcast the event until 1960, when ABC took over, televising the festivities (including the first color broadcast of the event in 1966) through 1970, after which NBC resumed the broadcasts. ABC once again took over broadcast duties in 1976, and has broadcast the Oscars ever since; its current contract with the Academy runs through 2028. The Academy has also produced condensed versions of the ceremony for broadcast in international markets (especially those outside of the Americas) in more desirable local timeslots. The ceremony was broadcast live internationally for the first time via satellite in 1970, but only two South American countries, Chile and Brazil, purchased the rights to air the broadcast. By that time, the television rights to the Academy Awards had been sold in 50 countries. A decade later, the rights were already being sold to 60 countries, and by 1984, the TV rights to the Awards were licensed in 76 countries.
The ceremonies were moved up from late-March or early-April to late February or early March starting in 2004 to help disrupt and shorten the intense lobbying and ad campaigns associated with Oscar season in the film industry. Another reason was because of the growing TV ratings success of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, which would cut into the Academy Awards audience. The earlier date is also to the advantage of ABC, as it now usually occurs during the highly profitable and important February sweeps period. Some years, the ceremony is moved into early March in deference to the Winter Olympics. Another reason for the move to late February and early March is to avoid the awards ceremony occurring so close to the religious holidays of Passover and Easter, which for decades had been a grievance from members and the general public. Advertising is somewhat restricted, however, as traditionally no movie studios or competitors of official Academy Award sponsors may advertise during the telecast. The Awards show holds the distinction of having won the most Emmys in history, with 47 wins and 195 nominations.
After many years of being held on Mondays at 9:00 pm Eastern/6:00 p.m Pacific, in 1999 the ceremonies were moved to Sundays at 8:30 pm Eastern/5:30 pm Pacific. The reasons given for the move were that more viewers would tune in on Sundays, that Los Angeles rush-hour traffic jams could be avoided, and that an earlier start time would allow viewers on the East Coast to go to bed earlier. For many years the film industry had opposed a Sunday broadcast because it would cut into the weekend box office. The Academy has contemplated moving the ceremony even further back into January, citing TV viewers' fatigue with the film industry's long awards season. However, such an accelerated schedule would dramatically decrease the voting period for its members, to the point where some voters would only have time to view the contending films streamed on their computers (as opposed to traditionally receiving the films and ballots in the mail). Also, a January or early-February ceremony held on a Sunday would have to compete with National Football League playoff games such as the Super Bowl.
Originally scheduled for April 8, 1968, the 40th Academy Awards ceremony was postponed for two days, because of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. On March 30, 1981, the 53rd Academy Awards was postponed for one day, after the shooting of President Ronald Reagan and others in Washington, D.C.
In 1993, an In Memoriam segment was introduced, honoring those who had made a significant contribution to cinema who had died in the preceding 12 months, a selection compiled by a small committee of Academy members. This segment has drawn criticism over the years for the omission of some names. Criticism was also levied for many years regarding another aspect, with the segment having a "popularity contest" feel as the audience varied their applause to those who had died by the subject's cultural impact; the applause has since been muted during the telecast, and the audience is discouraged from clapping during the segment and giving silent reflection instead.
In terms of broadcast length, the ceremony generally averages three and a half hours. The first Oscars, in 1929, lasted 15 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum, the 2000 ceremony lasted four hours and four minutes. In 2010, the organizers of the Academy Awards announced that winners' acceptance speeches must not run past 45 seconds. This, according to organizer Bill Mechanic, was to ensure the elimination of what he termed "the single most hated thing on the show" – overly long and embarrassing displays of emotion. In 2016, in a further effort to streamline speeches, winners' dedications were displayed on an on-screen ticker.
Although still dominant in ratings, the viewership of the Academy Awards have steadily dropped; the 88th Academy Awards were the lowest-rated in the past eight years (although with increases in male and 18-49 viewership), while the show itself also faced mixed reception. Following the show, Variety reported that ABC was, in negotiating an extension to its contract to broadcast the Oscars, seeking to have more creative control over the broadcast itself. Currently and nominally, AMPAS is responsible for most aspects of the telecast, including the choice of production staff and hosting, although ABC is allowed to have some input on their decisions. In August 2016, AMPAS extended its contract with ABC through 2028: the contract does not contain any notable changes, nor gives ABC any further creative control over the telecast.
Historically, the "Oscarcast" has pulled in a bigger haul when box-office hits are favored to win the Best Picture trophy. More than 57.25 million viewers tuned to the telecast for the 70th Academy Awards in 1998, the year of Titanic, which generated close to US$600 million at the North American box office pre-Oscars. The 76th Academy Awards ceremony in which The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (pre-telecast box office earnings of US$368 million) received 11 Awards including Best Picture drew 43.56 million viewers. The most watched ceremony based on Nielsen ratings to date, however, was the 42nd Academy Awards (Best Picture Midnight Cowboy) which drew a 43.4% household rating on 7 April 1970.
By contrast, ceremonies honoring films that have not performed well at the box office tend to show weaker ratings. The 78th Academy Awards which awarded low-budgeted, independent film Crash (with a pre-Oscar gross of US$53.4 million) generated an audience of 38.64 million with a household rating of 22.91%. In 2008, the 80th Academy Awards telecast was watched by 31.76 million viewers on average with an 18.66% household rating, the lowest rated and least watched ceremony to date, in spite of celebrating 80 years of the Academy Awards. The Best Picture winner of that particular ceremony was another independently financed film (No Country for Old Men).
In 1929, the first Academy Awards were presented at a banquet dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. From 1930 to 1943, the ceremony alternated between two venues: the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard and the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood then hosted the awards from 1944 to 1946, followed by the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles from 1947 to 1948. The 21st Academy Awards in 1949 were held at the Academy Award Theatre at what was the Academy's headquarters on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.
From 1950 to 1960, the awards were presented at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre. With the advent of television, the awards from 1953 to 1957 took place simultaneously in Hollywood and New York, first at the NBC International Theatre (1953) and then at the NBC Century Theatre, after which the ceremony took place solely in Los Angeles. The Oscars moved to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California in 1961. By 1969, the Academy decided to move the ceremonies back to Los Angeles, this time to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Music Center.
In 2002, the Dolby Theatre (previously known as the Kodak Theatre) became the presentation's current venue.
In the first year of the awards, the Best Directing award was split into two categories (Drama and Comedy). At times, the Best Original Score award has also been split into separate categories (Drama and Comedy/Musical). From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Art Direction (now Production Design), Cinematography, and Costume Design awards were likewise split into two categories (black-and-white films and color films). Prior to 2012, the Production Design award was called Art Direction, while the Makeup and Hairstyling award was called Makeup.
Another award, entitled the Academy Award for Best Original Musical, is still in the Academy rulebooks and has yet to be discontinued. However, due to continuous insufficient eligibility each year, it has not been awarded since 1984 (when Purple Rain won).
The Board of Governors meets each year and considers new award categories. To date, the following proposed categories have been rejected:Best Casting: rejected in 1999
Best Stunt Coordination: rejected every year from 1991 to 2012
Best Title Design: rejected in 1999
The Special Academy Awards are voted on by special committees, rather than by the Academy membership as a whole. They are not always presented on a consistent annual basis.For a list of all nine awards, see § Other awards presented by the Academy (above)
Academy Honorary Award: since 1929
Academy Scientific and Technical Award (three different awards): since 1931
Gordon E. Sawyer Award: since 1981
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: since 1957
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: since 1938
Academy Juvenile Award: 1934 to 1960
Academy Special Achievement Award: 1972 to 1995
Due to the positive exposure and prestige of the Academy Awards, studios spend millions of dollars and hire publicists specifically to promote their films during what is typically called the "Oscar season". This has generated accusations of the Academy Awards being influenced more by marketing than quality. William Friedkin, an Academy Award-winning film director and former producer of the ceremony, expressed this sentiment at a conference in New York in 2009, describing it as "the greatest promotion scheme that any industry ever devised for itself".
Tim Dirks, editor of AMC's filmsite.org, has written of the Academy Awards,
Unfortunately, the critical worth, artistic vision, cultural influence and innovative qualities of many films are not given the same voting weight. Especially since the 1980s, moneymaking "formula-made" blockbusters with glossy production values have often been crowd-pleasing titans (and Best Picture winners), but they haven't necessarily been great films with depth or critical acclaim by any measure.
Typical criticism of the Academy Awards for Best Picture is that among the winners and nominees there is an over-representation of romantic historical epics, biographical dramas, romantic dramedies, and family melodramas, most of which are released in the U.S. the last three months of the calendar year. The Oscars have been infamously known for selecting specific genres of movies to be awarded. This has led to the coining of the term 'Oscar bait', describing such movies. This has led at times to more specific criticisms that the Academy is disconnected from the audience, e.g. by favoring 'Oscar bait' over audience favorites, or favoring historical melodramas over critically acclaimed movies that depict current life issues.
The 88th awards ceremony became the target of a boycott, based on critics' perception that its all-white acting nominee list reflected bias. In response, the Academy initiated "historic" changes in membership by the year 2020.
Acting prizes in certain years have been criticized for not recognizing superior performances so much as being awarded for personal popularity or presented as a "career honor" to recognize a distinguished nominee's entire body of work.
Some winners critical of the Academy Awards have boycotted the ceremonies and refused to accept their Oscars. The first to do so was Dudley Nichols (Best Writing in 1935 for The Informer). Nichols boycotted the 8th Academy Awards ceremony because of conflicts between the Academy and the Writers' Guild. George C. Scott became the second person to refuse his award (Best Actor in 1970 for Patton) at the 43rd Academy Awards ceremony. Scott described it as a 'meat parade', saying 'I don't want any part of it." The third was Marlon Brando, who refused his award (Best Actor for 1972's The Godfather), citing the film industry's discrimination and mistreatment of Native Americans. At the 45th Academy Awards ceremony, Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to read a 15-page speech detailing his criticisms.
The following events are closely associated with the annual Academy Awards:César Award
The 25th Independent Spirit Awards (in 2010), usually held in Santa Monica the Saturday before the Oscars, marked the first time it was moved to a Friday and a change of venue to L.A. Live
The annual "Night Before", traditionally held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, begun in 2002 and generally known as the party of the season, benefits the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which operates a retirement home for SAG actors in the San Fernando Valley
Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party airs the awards live at the nearby Pacific Design Center
The Governors' Ball is the Academy's official after-party, including dinner (until 2011), and is adjacent to the awards-presentation venue
The Vanity Fair after-party, historically at the former Morton's restaurant, since 2009 has been at the Sunset Tower
It has become a tradition to give out gift bags to the presenters and performers at the Oscars. In recent years, these gifts have also been extended to award nominees and winners. The value of each of these gift bags can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. In 2014 the value was reported to be as high as US$80,000. The value has risen to the point where the U.S. Internal Revenue Service issued a statement regarding the gifts and their taxable status. Oscar gift bags have included vacation packages to Hawaii and Mexico and Japan, a private dinner party for the recipient and friends at a restaurant, videophones, a four-night stay at a hotel, watches, bracelets, vacation packages, spa treatments, bottles of vodka, maple salad dressing, and weight-loss gummie candy. Some of the gifts have even had a "risque" element to them; in 2014 the adult products retailer Adam & Eve had a "Secret Room Gifting Suite". Celebrities visiting the gifting suite included Judith Hoag, Carolyn Hennesy, Kate Linder, Chris Mulkey, Jim O'Heir, and NBA player John Salley.
From 2006 onwards, results are Live+SD, all previous years are Live viewing
The term "Oscar" is a registered trademark of the AMPAS; however, in the Italian language, it is used generically to refer to any award or award ceremony, regardless of which field.