History of the Academic Awards
The first awards were presented on May 16, 1929, at a private brunch at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with an audience of about 270 people. The post Academy Awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel. The cost of guest tickets for that night’s ceremony was $5. Fifteen statuettes were awarded, honoring artists, directors and other personalities of the filmmaking industry of the time for their works during the 1927–1928 period.
Winners had been announced three months earlier ; however that was changed in the second ceremony of the Academy Awards in 1930. Since then and during the first decade, the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11 pm on the night of the awards. This method was used until the Los Angeles Timesannounced the winners before the ceremony began; as a result, the Academy has used a sealed envelope to reveal the name of the winners since 1941.
For the first six ceremonies, the eligibility period spanned two calendar years. For example, the 2nd Academy Awards presented on April 3, 1930, recognized films that were released between August 1, 1928 and July 31, 1929. Starting with the 7th Academy Awards, held in 1935, the period of eligibility became the full previous calendar year from January 1 to December 31.
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. The honored professionals were awarded for all the work done in a certain category for the qualifying period; for example, Emil Jannings received the award for two movies in which he starred during that period. Since the fourth ceremony, the system changed, and the professionals were honored for a specific performance in a single film. As of the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony held in 2011, a total of 2,809 Oscars have been given for 1,853 awards. A total of 302 actors have won Oscars in competitive acting categories or been awarded Honorary or Juvenile Awards.
The 1939 film Beau Geste is the only movie that features as many as four Academy Award winners for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Cooper, Ray Milland,Susan Hayward, Broderick Crawford) prior to any of the actors receiving the Best Actor Award.
At the 29th ceremony, held on March 27, 1957, the Best Foreign Language Film category was introduced. Until then, foreign language films were honored with the Special Achievement Award.
Although there are seven other types of annual awards presented by the Academy (the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, the Scientific and Engineering Award, the Technical Achievement Award, the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, and the Student Academy Award) plus two awards that are not presented annually (the Special Achievement Award in the form of an Oscar statuette and the Honorary Award that may or may not be in the form of an Oscar statuette), the best known one 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 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.85 kg) and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader’s swordstanding 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.
In 1928, MGM‘s art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy members, supervised the design of the award trophy by printing the design on a scroll. In need of a model for his statuette, Gibbons was introduced by his future wife Dolores del Río to Mexican film director and actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernández. Reluctant at first, Fernández was finally convinced to pose nude to create what today is known as the “Oscar”. Then, sculptor George Stanley (who also did the Muse Fountain at the Hollywood Bowl) 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. Since 1983, approximately 50 Oscars are made each year in Chicago by Illinois manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company.
In support of the American effort in World War II, the statuettes were made of plaster and were traded in for gold ones after the war had ended.
The root of the name Oscar is contested. One biography of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader 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. Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. 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).
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 73 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 contribution 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 May 2011, the Academy sent a letter advising its 6,000 or so voting members that an online system for Oscar voting will be implemented in 2013.
Currently, 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, inLos Angeles County, California, to qualify (except for the Best Foreign Language Film). For example, the 2010 Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, was actually first released in 2008, but did not qualify for the 2009 awards as it did not play its Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles until mid-2009, thus qualifying for the 2010 awards.
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/sprogressive scan digital cinema format with native resolution not less than 1280×720.
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 6000 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.). There are some exceptions in the case of certain categories, like Foreign Film, Documentary and Animated Feature Film, in which movies are selected by special screening committees made up of members from all branches. In the special case of Best Picture, all voting members are eligible to select the nominees for that category. Foreign films must include English subtitles, and each country can submit only one film per year.
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.