Academy Award (Oscar)
Awarded to Media
Film and Television
Academy Award of Merit
Award Presented by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
May 16, 1929, to honour achievements of 1927/1928
Check out the awards by year
About this Award
The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers. The formal ceremony at which the awards are presented is among the most prominent and most watched film awards ceremonies in the world.
The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held on Thursday, May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. It was hosted by actor Douglas Fairbanks and director William C. DeMille. AMPAS, a professional honorary organization, maintains a voting membership of 5,829 as of 2007. Actors constitute the largest voting bloc, numbering 1,311 members (22 percent) of the Academy's composition. Votes for Oscars have been tabulated and certified by the auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (and its predecessor Price Waterhouse) for the past 72 annual awards ceremonies.
The official name of the Oscar statuette is the Academy Award of Merit. Made of gold-plated britannium on a black metal base, it is 13.5 in (34 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.85 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 each represent the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers and Technicians. MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy members, supervised the design of the award trophy by printing the design on scroll. In need of a model for his statue Gibbons was introduced by his then wife Dolores del Río to Emilio "El Indio" Fernández. Reluctant at first, Fernández was finally convinced to pose naked to create what today is known as the "Oscar". Then sculptor George Stanley sculpted Gibbons' design in clay, and Alex Smith cast the statue in tin and copper and then gold-plated it over a composition of 92.5 percent tin and 7.5 percent copper. The only addition to the Oscar since it was created is a minor streamlining of the base. Approximately 40 Oscars are made each year in by the manufacturer, R.S. Owens. If they fail to meet strict quality control standards, the statuettes are cut in half and melted down.
The root of the name "Oscar" is contested. One biography of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, bandleader Harmon Oscar Nelson; one of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to Bette Davis' receipt of the award in 1936. Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his "Oscar" as early as 1932. Another claimed origin is that of the Academy’s Executive Secretary, Margarita Bauza, who first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette reminding her of her Uncle Oscar. Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick’s naming and seized the name in his byline, "Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette 'Oscar'" (Levy 2003). Both Oscar and Academy Award are registered trademarks of the Academy, fiercely protected through litigation and threats thereof. As of the 79th Academy Awards ceremony held in 2007, a total of 2,658 Oscars have been awarded. A total of 290 different actors have won an acting Oscar (including Honorary Awards and Juvenile Awards).
Ownership of Oscar statuettes
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 $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 (Levy 2003).
This rule is highly controversial, since it implies that the winner does not own the award. The case of Michael Todd's grandson trying to sell Todd's Oscar statuette illustrates that there are many who do not agree with this idea. When Todd's grandson attempted to sell Todd's Oscar statuette to a movie prop collector, the Academy won the legal battle by getting a permanent injunction. Although some Oscar sales transactions have been successful, the buyers have subsequently returned the statuettes to the Academy, which keeps them in its treasury.
Academy Award membership
All members must be invited to join. Invitation comes from 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 contribution to the field of motion pictures. Although winning an Academy Award usually results in an invitation to join, membership is not automatic.
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 until 2003, stricter policies have kept its size steady since then.
Academy membership is divided into 15 branches, representing different disciplines in motion pictures. Members whose work does not fall within one of the branches may belong to a group known as "Members at Large."
Academy Award Nominations
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, to qualify. 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 on 24 fps or 48 fps progressive scan digital film print with native resolution not less than 1280 x 720.
The members of the various branches nominate those in their respective fields while all members may submit nominees for Best Picture. The winners are then determined by a second round of voting in which all members are then allowed to vote in most categories, including Best Picture.
As of the 79th Academy Awards, 847 members (past and present) of the Screen Actors Guild have been nominated for an Oscar (in all categories).
Academy Award nights
The major awards are given out at a live televised ceremony, most commonly in February or March following the relevant calendar year, and six weeks after the announcement of the nominees. 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 bowtie, and musical performers typically 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 has for several years claimed that the award show has a billion viewers internationally, but this has so far not been confirmed by any independent sources. Neither has the Academy explained how it has reached this figure.
The Academy Awards is the only awards ceremony televised live across the United States excluding Alaska and Hawaii; the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys are broadcast live in the U.S., Canada, and many countries around the world.
The Awards show was first televised on NBC in 1953. NBC continued to broadcast the event until 1960 when the ABC Network took over, televising the festivities through 1970, after which NBC resumed the broadcasts. ABC once again took over broadcast duties in 1976; it has contracted to do so through the year 2014.
After more than sixty years of being held in late March or early April, the ceremonies were moved up 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 currently usually occurs during the highly profitable and important February sweeps period. The Awards show holds the distinction of having won the most Emmys in history, with 38 wins and 167 nominations.
On March 30, 1981, the awards ceremony was postponed for one day after the shooting of President Ronald Reagan and others in Washington, D.C. On October 16, 2006, the awards event itself was designated a National Special Security Event by the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Movie studios are strictly prohibited from advertising films during the broadcast.
Since 2002, movie stars have been seen arriving at the Academy Awards in hybrid vehicles; during the telecast of the 79th Academy Awards in 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio and former vice president Al Gore announced that ecologically intelligent practices had been integrated into the planning and execution of the Oscar presentation and several related events.
Academy Award Venues
The 1st Academy Awards were presented at a banquet dinner at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood. Subsequent banquet ceremonies in the 1930s and early 40s were held in Los Angeles at either The Ambassador Hotel or the Biltmore Hotel.
Grauman's Chinese Theater 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 Theater" at the Academy's then-headquarters on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.
From 1950 to 1960, the awards were presented at Hollywood's Pantages Theater. The Oscars then 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 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Los Angeles Music Center. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hosted 19 consecutive Oscar ceremonies until 1988, when the Academy started to alternate between the Music Center and the Shrine Auditorium.In 2002, Hollywood's Kodak Theater became the first permanent home of the awards. It is connected to the Hollywood & Highland Center, which contains 640,000 square feet (59,000 sq. m.) of space including retail, restaurants, nightclubs, other establishments and a six-screen cinema. In fact, the Grand Staircase columns at the Kodak Theater showcase every movie that has won the Best Picture title since the first Academy Awards in 1928.