The British Academy Film Awards is an annual award show hosted by BAFTA. It is often cited as the British equivalent to the Oscars. In 2008, it took place in the Royal Opera House, having taken place since 2000 in the flagship Odeon cinema on Leicester Square.
BAFTA was founded in 1947 as The British Film Academy, by David Lean, Alexander Korda, Carol Reed, Charles Laughton, Roger Manvell and others. In 1958, the Academy merged with The Guild of Television Producers and Directors to form The Society of Film and Television, which eventually became The British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1976.
BAFTA's stated charitable remit is to "support, develop and promote the art forms of the moving image, by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public". In addition to high profile awards ceremonies BAFTA runs a year-round programme of educational events including film screenings and tribute evenings. BAFTA is supported by a membership of around 6000 people from the film, television and video game industries.
The Academy's awards are in the form of a theatrical mask designed by American sculptor Mitzi Cunliffe, which was commissioned by the Guild of Television Producers in 1955.
The ceremony used to take place in April or May, but from 2002 onwards it takes place in February in order to precede the Oscars. The awards are mostly open to all nationalities, though there is an award for Best British Film and Best Newcomer.