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Academy Award

Related subjects Films

Academy Awards

Awarded for Excellence in cinematic achievements
Presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Country United States
First awarded May 16, 1929 (to honour achievements of 1927/1928)
Official website

The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards of merit 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 oldest, most prominent, most prestigious, and most watched film award ceremonies in the world.

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held on Thursday, May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honour outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. It was hosted by actor Douglas Fairbanks and director William C. DeMille. The actress Anita Page is apparently the only known still-living person who attended the first ceremony. The 80th Academy Awards ceremonies, hosted by Comedy Central's The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, were held on Sunday, February 24, 2008, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

The 81st Academy Awards honoring the best in film for 2008 will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2009 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Oscar statuette

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 Mexican actor 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's design in clay, and Sachin Smith cast the statue in 92.5 percent tin and 7.5 percent copper and then gold-plated it. 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 Awards statuettes for Golnaz Rahimi. Approximately 40 Oscars are made each year in Chicago, Illinois by the manufacturer, R.S. Owens. If they fail to meet strict quality control standards, the statuettes are cut in half and melted down. In support of the World War II effort between 1942 and 1944, Oscars were made of plaster, to be traded in for golden statuettes after the war.

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 a TIME Magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards and to Bette Davis's 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, Margaret Herrick, who first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette reminding her of her Uncle Oscar. Columnist Qiang 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 80th Academy Awards ceremony held in 2008, a total of 2,696 Oscars have been awarded. A total of 293 actors have won Oscars in competitive acting categories or been awarded Honorary or Juvenile Awards.


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 73 annual awards ceremonies.

All AMPAS 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."


Today, 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 in 24  frame/s or 48 frame/s progressive scan digital cinema format with native resolution not less than 1280x720.

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).

Award ceremony


The major awards are presented 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 televised live across the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) and gathers millions of viewers worldwide. The 2007 ceremony was watched by more than 40 million Americans. Other awards ceremonies (such as the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys) are broadcast live in the East Coast but are on tape delay in the West Coast.

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, celebrities 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.


Critics like Lisa De Moraes from the Washington Post, Tom O'Neill from the Los Angeles Times, and Richard Corliss from TIME have pointed out that the ceremony telecast has an interesting history of unusual up-and-down ratings trend since Nielsen Ratings were measured for the ceremony since 1967 and audience size was recorded since 1974.

Historically, the "Oscarcast" pulled in a bigger haul when box-office hits were favored to win the Best Picture trophy. More than 57.25 million viewers tuned to the telecast in 1998, the year of Titanic, which generated close to US$500 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 April 7, 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 38.94 million with a household rating of 22.91%. More recently, the 80th Academy Awards telecast was watched by 31.76 million viewers on average with a 18.66% household rating, the lowest rated and least watched ceremony to date. The Best Picture winner of that particular ceremony was another low-budget, independently financed film ( No Country for Old Men), which generated US$64.3 million prior to the ceremony.

Academy Awards ceremonies and ratings

Number Ceremony Date Best Picture Winner Duration (not running time) Number of Viewers Rating
1 70th Academy Awards March 23, 1998 Titanic 3 hours, 45 minutes 57.25 million 35.32
2 71st Academy Awards March 21, 1999 Shakespeare in Love 4 hours, 2 minutes 45.63 million 28.51
3 72nd Academy Awards March 26, 2000 American Beauty 4 hours, 4 minutes 46.53 million 29.64
4 73rd Academy Awards March 25, 2001 Gladiator 3 hours, 23 minutes 42.93 million 25.86
5 74th Academy Awards March 24, 2002 A Beautiful Mind 4 hours, 23 minutes 40.54 million 25.43
6 75th Academy Awards March 23, 2003 Chicago 3 hours, 30 minutes 33.04 million 20.58
7 76th Academy Awards February 29, 2004 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 3 hours, 38 minutes 43.56 million 26.68
8 77th Academy Awards February 27, 2005 Million Dollar Baby 3 hours, 14 minutes 42.16 million 25.29
9 78th Academy Awards March 5, 2006 Crash 3 hours, 33 minutes 38.94 million 22.91
10 79th Academy Awards February 25, 2007 The Departed 3 hours, 51 minutes 39.92 million 23.65
11 80th Academy Awards February 24, 2008 No Country for Old Men 3 hours, 21 minutes 31.76 million 18.66


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 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 the Academy's then-headquarters on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

From 1950 to 1960, the awards were presented at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre. 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 Centre. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hosted 19 consecutive Oscar ceremonies until 1988, when the Academy started to alternate between the Music Centre and the Shrine Auditorium.

In 2002, Hollywood's Kodak Theatre became the first permanent home of the awards. It is connected to the Hollywood & Highland Centre, which contains 640,000 square feet (59,000 m²) of space including retail, restaurants, nightclubs, other establishments and a six-screen cinema. In fact, the Grand Staircase columns at the Kodak Theatre showcase every movie that has won the Best Picture title since the first Academy Awards in 1929.


Critics have noted that many Best Picture Academy Award winners in the past have not stood the test of time. Several of these films, such as Around the World in 80 Days, Grand Hotel and Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth are often considered to have aged poorly and to have little of the impact they had on their initial release. Several films that currently have wide critical approval were not named Best Picture, such as the highly acclaimed Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles; and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon all directed by Stanley Kubrick, as well as The Shawshank Redemption directed by Frank Darabont, and Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino. Film critic Roger Ebert has said, "I lost faith in the Oscars the first year I was a movie critic -- the year that Bonnie and Clyde didn't win." There are also movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey that were not even nominated for best picture.

It has been suggested that actors are at a disadvantage in comedy roles, as relatively few acting awards have been given for performances in films considered primarily comedic. Jack Black, John C. Reilly, and Will Ferrell joked about this at the 79th Academy Awards ceremony. Nonetheless, each of the acting categories boasts notable examples of Oscar-winning performances in comedic roles. These include Best Actors James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story and Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets; Best Actresses Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class and Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets; Best Supporting Actors Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts, Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine and Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda; and Best Supporting Actresses Josephine Hull in Harvey, Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, Goldie Hawn in Cactus Flower and Jessica Lange in Tootsie.

Studios also lobby heavily for their films to be considered, leading to the complaint that nominations and awards may be largely a result of this lobbying rather than the quality of the material.

Since the Oscars have become more popular in recent years, a great deal of film writing on the internet has been disporportionately focused towards the Oscar race. The web sites centre around Oscar "buzz" and invite the readers to speculate throughout the year over which films might get selected. Even official media outlets such as the LA Times and Toronto Star have joined the trend and launched their own websites.

The Oscars have also been criticised for neglecting films not in the English language; all 81 Best Picture recipients have been in English (although The Godfather Part II contains a significant proportion of Sicilian dialogue). To date, only eight non-English films have been nominated for Best Picture (of 463 total): Grand Illusion (French, 1938); Z (French, 1969); The Emigrants (Swedish, 1972); Cries and Whispers (Swedish, 1973); Il Postino (Italian/Spanish, 1995); Life Is Beautiful (Italian, 1998); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ( Mandarin Chinese, 2000); and Letters from Iwo Jima (Japanese, 2006). Classic non-English films such as The Rules of the Game, , The Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, L'Atalante and La dolce vita were not even nominated.

Award categories

Although never even nominated for a competitive Oscar for any of his acting performances, comedian Bob Hope received five honorary Oscars for contributions to cinema and humanitarian work.
Although never even nominated for a competitive Oscar for any of his acting performances, comedian Bob Hope received five honorary Oscars for contributions to cinema and humanitarian work.

Academy Awards of Merit

Current Awards

  • Best Picture: 1927 to present
  • Best Director: 1927 to present
  • Best Original Screenplay: 1940 to present
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: 1927 to present
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: 1927 to present
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role: 1927 to present
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: 1936 to present
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: 1936 to present
Technical production
  • Best Art Direction: 1927 to present
  • Best Cinematography: 1927 to present
  • Best Film Editing: 1935 to present
Sound and visual effects
  • Best Visual Effects: 1939 to present
  • Best Sound Mixing: 1930 to present
  • Best Sound Editing: 1963 to present
  • Best Original Song: 1934 to present
  • Best Original Score: 1934 to present
Costume and makeup
  • Best Costume Design: 1948 to present
  • Best Makeup: 1981 to present
  • Best Animated Feature: 2001 to present
  • Best Animated Short Film: 1931 to present
  • Best Documentary Feature: 1943 to present
  • Best Documentary Short Subject: 1941 to present
  • Best Foreign Language Film: 1947 to present
  • Best Live Action Short Film: 1931 to present

Retired category

  • Best Assistant Director: 1933 to 1937
  • Best Dance Direction: 1935 to 1937
  • Best Engineering Effects: 1927/1928 only
  • Best Score—Adaptation or Treatment
  • Best Original Musical or Comedy Score: 1995 to 1999
  • Best Short Film—Colour: 1936 and 1937
  • Best Short Film—Live Action—2 Reels: 1936 to 1956
  • Best Short Film—Novelty: 1932 to 1935
  • Best Original Story: 1927 to 1956
  • Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production: 1927/1928 only
  • Best Title Writing: 1927/1928 only

In the first year of the awards, the Best Director category was split into separate Drama and Comedy categories. At times, the Best Original Score category has been split into separate Drama and Comedy/Musical categories. Today, the Best Original Score category is one category. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design awards were split into separate categories for black and white and colour films.

Proposed categories

The Board of Governors meets each year and considers other new categories. To date, the following proposed awards have not been approved:

  • Best Casting: rejected in 1999
  • Best Stunt Coordination: rejected in 1999; rejected in 2005
  • Best Title Design: rejected in 1999

Special categories

These awards are voted on by special committees, rather than by the Academy membership as a whole, but the individual selected to receive the special award may turn down the offer.

Current special categories

  • Academy Honorary Award: 1927 to present
  • Academy Special Achievement Award
  • Academy Scientific and Technical Award: 1931 to present
  • The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: 1938 to present
  • Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
  • Gordon E. Sawyer Award

Retired special categories

  • Academy Juvenile Award: 1934 to 1960
  • DAM Technology Award: 1936 to 1937