The Rich History of The Oscars

The Academy Awards have been going on for more than 92 years now and they are, undoubtedly, the most prestigious awards within the film world.

For many filmmakers, the possibility of one day being on stage receiving the golden trophy known as the Oscar is hugely motivating. Pretty much all of the most popular and successful people who have worked in the movie industry have at one point been recognized by the Oscars. Despite many people doubting whether awards have lost their prestige nowadays, there is no denying that as a filmmaker there is no bigger stage for your work to be recognized and awarded based on merit than the globally-watched Academy Awards.

Where It All Began

At a private dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, in 1929, the first Academy Awards were held. Though not broadcasted neither on television nor on the radio, the event was attended by 270 guests. With only 12 total categories and rules that were heavily changed later on (such as one actor being able to be nominated for multiple films in the same year), this was the start of something historic. The major credit for coming up with the idea and making it happen goes to Louis B. Meyer who wanted to unite the different branches of the film industry.

Another key difference from the first Academy Awards to now it’s the runtime. Interestingly enough, the first ceremony lasted only 15 minutes total. This is a huge shift compared to today’s four-hour broadcast (more if you include the red carpet beforehand). The second Academy Awards in 1930 were broadcasted on radio and included some key changes. Most importantly, the winners were not announced months before the ceremony as was the case in the first Oscars. Strangely, the number of categories went down from 12 to 7 now.

Though the third Academy Awards were the first to be filmed, the ceremony would not be televised live up until 1953. A unique fact about the third ceremony is that it was also held in 1930, the same year as the second ceremony. This was the first and only time two Oscar ceremonies were held in one year. The third Oscars were held in November, about eight months apart from the second.


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The Oscars Now

The schedule has changed a lot as now the awards are held around February or March. The Oscar ceremony is considered the culmination of the awards season that begins about four months prior. All the eyes of movie-watchers and lovers are set on this one magical night full of stars. All the filmmakers that have done impressive work the previous year show up in glamorous fashion. A simple Oscar nomination can be considered as validation for hard work at the highest level.

In America, NBC broadcasted the televised shows on and off until 1975 when ABC took over. Though not without its criticisms, in 1993 the In Memoriam segment was included within the ceremony to honor the lives of filmmakers lost within the past year. Winning speeches have more recently been reduced to only 45 seconds for each winner. Despite many attempts at having the ceremony flow better and quicker, the show is still regarded as too long by many.


What Do the Oscars Mean Now?

It’s fascinating to take into account that this is the longest-running televised show in the world. It’s hard to maintain this kind of consistency over the decades (now nearly a century) while at the same time retaining the prestige that comes with being nominated and winning an Oscar. There are live performances of the original songs nominated at the ceremony, hosts telling jokes and getting the flow rolling, and the acceptance speeches that everyone dreams of giving at some point.

Despite its importance even today, it’s rather interesting to note that with time the viewership has steadily declined. General interest has dimmed down a bit and, although it is still considered as the number one awards show in the world, winning an Oscar is not as great a feat now as it was in 1960 for example. This is also in clear relation to the kind of movies that are nominated. If a huge box office hit that the worldwide audience, and especially the American audience, went out to see is nominated for Best Picture, then more viewers will naturally tune in. However, the academy within the past two decades especially has become renowned for nominating slightly less known films to the general audience. This is also a good thing in a way though because it gives these movies a lot more exposure.

Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that even people who disagree with the nominations or don’t even generally care about the Oscars will want to see who won what that particular night. Also, with all those movie stars present, it’s impossible not to have your curiosity peaked at least a little if you care about films. You can disagree and you can get mad because your favorite film didn’t win, but just make sure you’re also having fun when watching this almost century-old awards show.


Photo: Yavdat/

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