What are the Academy Awards?

The award, a golden statuette which officially goes by the name "Academy Award of Merit", is informally called an "Oscar." Editorial credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

The Academy Awards comprise of 24 awards for both artistic and technical merit in the film industry of the US. The awards, also called the Oscars, are awarded on a yearly basis by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and they recognize outstanding cinematic achievements as assessed by the voting membership of the Academy. The individuals who emerge as the category winners are presented with a copy of a golden statuette which officially goes by the name "Academy Award of Merit" and is informally called an "Oscar."


The inaugural Academy Awards involved an audience of about 270 people gathered for a private dinner on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The post-award celebration happened at the Mayfair Hotel. Fifteen statuettes were presented, and the ceremony ran for a total of 15 minutes. Winners had been communicated to the media three months prior, and for the rest of the first decade, the winners were relayed to newspapers for subsequent publication at 11:00 pm. In 1941, the Academy adopted the use of sealed envelopes.

The initial award for the Best Actor category was presented to Emil Jannings, who was recognized for his roles in the Last Command as well as in The Way of All Flesh. At the time, the winners were awarded based on the total work done in a particular category within the qualifying period. However, by the fourth ceremony professionals were recognized for a specific performance in one film. The eligibility period accommodated two calendar years for the initial six ceremonies. The category for the Best Foreign Language Film was introduced on March 27, 1957 for the 29th ceremony. The awards for the Best Picture and Best Animated Feature were subsequently added.


The Academy Awards are televised live in all of the times zones of the US, and it is the only award ceremony to have that kind of airtime. NBC first televised the awards in 1953 after which ABC took over in 1960. ABC is the current broadcaster of the event, and its contract runs through 2028. The main awards are televised either in late February or early March. The invited attendees walk up the red carpet in outfits made by contemporary designers. The Academy has produced shortened versions of the event for broadcast in foreign markets. The television rights to the awards have been purchased by different countries.


The first Academy Awards, held in 1929, unfolded in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Between 1930 and 1943, the ceremony took place either in the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard or Biltmore Hotel. The awards moved to Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1944 until 1946 when they were held at Shrine Auditorium. The awards were organized by the Academy Award Theatre in 1949. The event has since been held in several venues including Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, the NBC International Theatre, and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The ceremony's current venue is the Dolby Theatre.


The awards have not been without criticism. One accusation is that of commercialism where studios invest millions of dollars and contract publicists to promote their films in the so called "Oscar season." The event has also been called out for its perceived lack of diversity and bias. Some winners have turned down invitations and refused to accept their awards.


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