Academy Awards aka Oscars

The Academy Awards also are known as “Oscars” and “The Oscar” is presented every year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The Oscar was first awarded on May 16, 1929. Since then every year the Academy recognizes excellence in cinematic achievements and is assessed by the Academy’s voting membership.

The Oscar statue

The Academy Award of Merit is more popularly known as the Oscar statuette depicts a knight holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes. The five spokes symbolize the original members of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians. The statuette is made of gold-plated bronze and stands on a black metal base. Its dimensions are 13.5 in (34.3 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.856 kg). It takes approximately three months to produce 50 statuettes.

The story goes that the model for the statuette was Mexican actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernández. It was designed by Cedric Gibbons, while George Stanley sculpted the statuette. Over the years the statuette changed from gold-plated bronze to its current form. The statuettes are printed as 3D-ceramic molds first and then cast in liquid bronze and finally electroplated in 24-karat gold by Brooklyn, New York-based Epner Technology.  

From radio to the stage

The first Academy Awards for films during the 1927–28 period was held on May 16, 1929, as a private dinner function at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Around 270 people attended the ceremony. Tickets for that night’s ceremony cost $5. Fifteen statuettes were awarded to artists, directors and other participants in the film-making industry. The ceremony ran for 15 minutes. The post-awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel.

The awards ceremony was first broadcast in 1930 on the radio.

In 1953 the ceremony was televised for the first time.

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony, honoring the best films of 2017, was held on March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles, California. Jimmy Kimmel hosted the ceremony and the Award ceremony was broadcast on ABC. It was seen live in more than 200 countries and was streamed live online.

A total of 3,072 Oscars have been awarded from the inception of the award through the 90th Academy Awards.

How the Oscar was named

The origin of the name Oscar is at best anecdotal and disputed. Bette Davis, who was a president of the Academy, claims she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson in a biography.  An alternate origin story tells that the Academy’s Executive Secretary, Margaret Herrick, first saw the award in 1931 and mentioned that the statuette reminded her of her “Uncle Oscar”. This was a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce. Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick’s naming and seized the name in his byline, “Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette ‘Oscar’.

In 1934, a Time magazine article about the 6th Academy Awards mentioned the term Oscar for the first time. Walt Disney also thanked the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. The name “Oscar” was bestowed to the trophy officially in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Recipients of this year’s Oscars–and recipients since 1950,–nor their heirs may not sell the statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1. If there is a dispute and a winner refuses to agree to this requirement, the Academy then gets to keep the statuette. Awards received prior to 1950 were sold for various reasons, including Orson Welles’ 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane that was sold by his heirs.

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