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OSCARS

 

 HISTORY

The first awards were presented on May 16, 1929 at a private dinner in Hollywood, with an audience of less than 250 people.[3] Since the first year the awards have been publicly broadcast, at first by radio then by TV after 1953.[3] During the first decade the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the awards. This method was ruined when the Los Angeles Times announced the winners before the ceremony began; as a result the Academy has since used a sealed envelope to reveal the name of the winners.[4] Since 2002, the awards have been broadcast from the Kodak Theatre.[4]

Oscar statuette

Design

The Oscar statuette featured in a display case.

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.[5]

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.[6] In need of a model for his statuette Gibbons was introduced by his then wife Dolores del Río to Mexican film director 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 1983[7], approximately 50 Oscars are made each year in Chicago, Illinois by manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company.[8]

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.[9]

Naming

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;[10] one of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to a TIME Magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards[11] and to Bette Davis's receipt of the award in 1936.[12] 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[13], 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). The trophy was officially dubbed the "Oscar" in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.[14] As of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony held in 2008, a total of 2,701 Oscars have been awarded.[15] A total of 293 actors have won Oscars in competitive acting categories or been awarded Honorary or 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 US$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).[citation needed]

This rule is highly controversial, since while the Oscar is under the ownership of the recipient, it is essentially not on the open market.[16] 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.[citation needed]

Nomination

Since 2004, Academy Award nomination results have been announced to the public in late January. Prior to 2004, nomination results were announced publicly in early February.

Voters

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), a professional honorary organization, maintains a voting membership of 5,829 as of 2007.[17]

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.[18]

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.

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.[19]

Rules

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.[20] 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.[21]

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).

Ceremony

Telecast

31st Academy Awards Presentations, Pantages Theater, Hollywood, 1959

81st Academy Awards Presentations, Hollywood and Highland, Hollywood, 2009

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. It is the culmination of the film awards season, which usually begins during November or December of the previous year. 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 bow-tie, and musical performers sometimes 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 Awards is televised live across the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, the United Kingdom, and gathers millions of viewers elsewhere throughout the world.[22] The 2007 ceremony was watched by more than 40 million Americans.[23] 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 and might not air on the same day outside North America (if the awards are even televised). The Academy has for several years claimed that the award show has up to a billion viewers internationally, but this has so far not been confirmed by any independent sources. The usual extension of this claim is that only the Super Bowl, Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and FIFA World Cup Final draw higher viewership.

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.[24]

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 now 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.) Advertising is somewhat restricted, however, as traditionally no movie studios or competitors of official Academy Award sponsors may advertise during the telecast. The Awards show holds the distinction of having won the most Emmys in history, with 38 wins and 167 nominations.[25]

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.

Since 2002, celebrities have been seen arriving at the Academy Awards in hybrid vehicles;[26] 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.[27][28]

Ratings

Historically, the "Oscarcast" has pulled in a bigger haul when box-office hits are 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$600 million at the North American box office pre-Oscars.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

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%.[32] 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, in spite of celebrating 80 years of the Academy Awards.[33] The Best Picture winner of that particular ceremony was another low-budget, independently financed film (No Country for Old Men).

Academy Awards ceremonies and ratings [34][35]

Ceremony  

Date  

Best Picture Winner  

Duration (not running time)  

Number of Viewers  

Rating  

Host  

68th Academy Awards

March 25, 1996

Braveheart

3 hours, 38 minutes

44.81 million

30.48

Whoopi Goldberg

69th Academy Awards

March 24, 1997

The English Patient

3 hours, 34 minutes

40.83 million

25.83

Billy Crystal

70th Academy Awards

March 23, 1998

Titanic

3 hours, 47 minutes

57.25 million

35.32

Billy Crystal

71st Academy Awards

March 21, 1999

Shakespeare in Love

4 hours, 2 minutes

45.63 million

28.51

Whoopi Goldberg

72nd Academy Awards

March 26, 2000

American Beauty

4 hours, 4 minutes

46.53 million

29.64

Billy Crystal

73rd Academy Awards

March 25, 2001

Gladiator

3 hours, 23 minutes

42.93 million

25.86

Steve Martin

74th Academy Awards

March 24, 2002

A Beautiful Mind

4 hours, 23 minutes

40.54 million

25.43

Whoopi Goldberg

75th Academy Awards

March 23, 2003

Chicago

3 hours, 30 minutes

33.04 million

20.58

Steve Martin

76th Academy Awards

February 29, 2004

The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King

3 hours, 44 minutes

43.56 million

26.68

Billy Crystal

77th Academy Awards

February 27, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

3 hours, 14 minutes

42.16 million

25.29

Chris Rock

78th Academy Awards

March 5, 2006

Crash

3 hours, 33 minutes

38.94 million

22.91

Jon Stewart

79th Academy Awards

February 25, 2007

The Departed

3 hours, 51 minutes

39.92 million

23.65

Ellen DeGeneres

80th Academy Awards

February 24, 2008

No Country for Old Men

3 hours, 21 minutes

31.76 million

18.66

Jon Stewart

81st Academy Awards

February 22, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

3 hours, 30 minutes

34.26 million

TBA

Hugh Jackman

 

 
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