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The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are a set of awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar".
The award was originally sculpted by George Stanley from a design sketch by Cedric Gibbons. AMPAS first presented it in 1929 at a private dinner hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Academy Awards ceremony was first broadcast on radio in 1930 and televised for the first time in 1953. It is the oldest worldwide entertainment awards ceremony and is now seen live worldwide. Its equivalents – the Emmy Awards for television, the Tony Awards for theater, and the Grammy Awards for music – are modeled after the Academy Awards.
The 91st Academy Awards ceremony, honoring the best films of 2018, was held on February 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony was broadcast on ABC. A total of 3,072 Oscar statuettes have been awarded from the inception of the award through the 90th ceremony. It was the first ceremony since 1988 without a host.
The first Academy Awards presentation was held on 16 May 1929, at a private dinner function at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with an audience of about 270 people. The post-awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel. The cost of guest tickets for that night's ceremony was $5 ($73 in 2018 dollars). Fifteen statuettes were awarded, honoring artists, directors and other participants in the film-making industry of the time, for their works during the 1927–28 period. The ceremony ran for 15 minutes.
Winners were announced to media three months earlier. That was changed for the second ceremony in 1930. Since then, for the rest of the first decade, the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11:00 pm on the night of the awards. This method was used until an occasion when the Los Angeles Times announced the winners before the ceremony began; as a result, the Academy has, since 1941, used a sealed envelope to reveal the name of the winners.
The best known award is the Academy Award of Merit, more popularly known as the Oscar statuette. Made of gold-plated bronze on a black metal base, it is 13.5 in (34.3 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.856 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 represent the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians.
The model for the statuette is said to be Mexican actor Emilio "El Indio" Fern?ndez. Sculptor George Stanley (who also did the Muse Fountain at the Hollywood Bowl) sculpted Cedric Gibbons' design. The statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years the bronze was abandoned in favor of Britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy which is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, 24-karat gold. Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones. 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 Award's statuettes. From 1983 to 2015, approximately 50 Oscars in a tin alloy with gold plating were made each year in Chicago by Illinois manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company. It would take between three and four weeks to manufacture 50 statuettes. In 2016, the Academy returned to bronze as the core metal of the statuettes, handing manufacturing duties to Walden, New York-based Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. While based on a digital scan of an original 1929 Oscar, the statuettes retain their modern-era dimensions and black pedestal. Cast in liquid bronze from 3D-printed ceramic molds and polished, they are then electroplated in 24-karat gold by Brooklyn, New York–based Epner Technology. The time required to produce 50 such statuettes is roughly three months. R.S. Owens is expected to continue producing other awards for the Academy and service existing Oscars that need replating.
The origin of the name Oscar is disputed. One biography of Bette Davis, who was a president of the Academy, claims she named the award after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. A frequently-mentioned originator is Margaret Herrick, the Academy executive secretary, who, when she first saw the award in 1931, said the statuette reminded her of "Uncle Oscar", a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce. Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick's naming and wrote that "Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette 'Oscar'." The Academy credits him with "the first confirmed newspaper reference" to Oscar in his March 16, 1934 column about the 6th Academy Awards that year. Another early mention appeared in a Time magazine story about the 1934 awards. In the ceremonies that year Walt Disney thanked the Academy for his Oscar. The Academy officially adopted the name Oscar for the trophies in 1939.
To prevent information identifying the Oscar winners from leaking ahead of the ceremony, Oscar statuettes presented at the ceremony have blank baseplates. Until 2010, winners returned their statuettes to the Academy, and had to wait several weeks to have their names inscribed on their respective Oscars. Since 2010, winners have had the option of having engraved nameplates applied to their statuettes at an inscription-processing station at the Governor's Ball, a party held immediately after the Oscar ceremony. The R.S. Owens company has engraved nameplates made before the ceremony, bearing the name of every potential winner. The nameplates for the non-winning nominees are later recycled.
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