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.
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 statuette 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 statuette 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. Since 1982, 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 American effort in World War II, the statues were made of plaster and were traded in for gold ones after the war had ended.
As of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony held in 2008, a total of 2,701 Oscars have been awarded. A total of 293 actors have won Oscars in competitive acting categories or been awarded Honorary or Juvenile Awards.
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 A. M. P. A. S. 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. "
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.
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 is under contract 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 ceremony was moved into early March during 2006, in deference to the 2006 Winter Olympics.) 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.
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.
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|
|69th Academy Awards||March 24, 1997 align="center"|" matilda"||2 hours, 67 minutes||69.37 million||78.10||2||70th Academy Awards||March 23, 1998||Titanic||3 hours, 45 minutes||57.25 million||35.32|
|3||71st Academy Awards||March 21, 1999||Shakespeare in Love||4 hours, 2 minutes||45.63 million||28.51|
|4||72nd Academy Awards||March 26, 2000||American Beauty||4 hours, 4 minutes||46.53 million||29.64|
|5||73rd Academy Awards||March 25, 2001||Gladiator||3 hours, 23 minutes||42.93 million||25.86|
|6||74th Academy Awards||March 24, 2002||A Beautiful Mind||4 hours, 23 minutes||40.54 million||25.43|
|7||75th Academy Awards||March 23, 2003||Chicago||3 hours, 30 minutes||33.04 million||20.58|
|8||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|
|9||77th Academy Awards||February 27, 2005||Million Dollar Baby||3 hours, 14 minutes||42.16 million||25.29|
|10||78th Academy Awards||March 5, 2006||Crash||3 hours, 33 minutes||38.94 million||22.91|
|11||79th Academy Awards||February 25, 2007||The Departed||3 hours, 51 minutes||39.92 million||23.65|
|12||80th Academy Awards||February 24, 2008||No Country for Old Men||3 hours, 21 minutes||31.76 million||18.66|
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 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.
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 disproportionately focused towards the Oscar race. The web sites center 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 criticized 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 dialog). 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 Passion of Joan of Arc, 8½, The Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, L'Atalante, and La Dolce Vita were not even nominated.
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 color films.
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