by Diane Larson
“The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are a set of 24 awards for artistic and technical merit in the American film industry, given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
In a 1927 dinner party at the home of Louis B. Mayer, those present would begin a discussion “about creating an organized group to benefit the film industry,” according to Oscars.org. After that first discussion, another gathering of 36 invitees from all the creative branches of the film industry was brought together to hear a proposal that would establish the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Next, articles of incorporation were presented and officers elected. Douglas Fairbanks became the first president of the Academy in 1927 and held that position until 1929.
On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Awards were held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the downstairs Blossom Ballroom.
Guests paid $5.00 a ticket to attend and were treated to a dinner of fillet of Sole Saute au Beurre and chicken. A convenient venue, since the Academy President at the time, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, was one of the financiers of the hotel.
Of the 90 awards ceremonies that have been held over the years, this inaugural event is the only one that was not broadcast in any form. It is also that only one that would include silent films. Even that night the big topic of conversation, according to The Telegraph, was ‘talking pictures’.
A trifling 270 guests watched a ceremony that honored films released from August 1, 1927, to July 31, 1928. This first ceremony lasted 15 minutes. According to Wikipedia fifteen statuettes were awarded that night. Three months earlier the winners had been announced to the media, this practice changed the very next year.
For the next several years, a list of Academy winners were given to the newspapers at 11:00 am on the day of the ceremony. However, this practice was changed when the Los Angeles Times announced the winners before the ceremony began. The sealed envelope that contains the winners' name has been used since 1941.
A few years after the first Academy Awards the statuette became known (unofficially) as ‘Oscar.’ Film historian and host of Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne explains that there are three people who claim to have nicknamed the statuette.
The nickname occurred in about the seventh or eighth year. One of the persons claiming authorship of the nickname was Sidney Skolsky, who was a Hollywood columnist. According to Osborne, Skolsky “got tired of writing about ‘the gold statue of the academy.’” He began calling it Oscar after a vaudeville joke involving the name.
Second was Margaret Herrick, who was the Academy librarian and later executive director. She named it after an uncle of hers. The last one, and possibly the most well-known story is Bette Davis. The story, according to Osborne, is that Davis said that the statuette reminded her of her husband when he got out of the shower in the morning.
Regardless of who or where the name Oscar came from, in 2013 the Academy Awards were officially rebranded as simply The Oscars.
Today, the movie industry has become, to say the least, big business. The Oscars is no exception. In 2016 the Academy spent “$44 million on the Academy Awards ‘and related events,” said The Guardian.
Some of those costs, according to The Guardian include the gold-plated bronze statuette costing around $900 each. The host’s fee is $15,000, which is union minimum. Security cost them $250,000. Red carpet is $1.50 for square foot. Needing 500 feet x 33ft the total comes to $24,700.
This year The Oscars will be televised on March 4th at 6:00 pm MST on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel will host the 2018 ceremonies, which makes him the first person to host back to back since 1997 and 1998 when Billy Crystal hosted.