The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognise excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors and writers, for the preceding year.
The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on Thursday 16 May 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honour outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. It was hosted by actor Douglas Fairbanks and director William C. DeMille.
The Academy Awards traditionally air live in South Africa on one of DStv's movie channels, with a delayed broadcast airing on the same night on M-Net.
About the Awards
Far from the eagerly anticipated and globally televised event it is today, the first Academy Awards ceremony took place out of the public eye during an Academy banquet at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Two hundred and seventy people attended the 16 May, 1929 dinner in the hotel's Blossom Room; guest tickets cost $5. It was a long affair filled with speeches, but Academy President Douglas Fairbanks made quick work of handing out the statuettes.
There was little suspense when the awards were presented that night: the recipients had already been announced three months earlier. That all changed the following year, however, when the Academy decided to keep the results secret until the ceremony but gave a list in advance to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the Awards.
This policy continued until 1940 when, much to the Academy's consternation, the Los Angeles Times broke the embargo and published the names of the winners in its evening edition – which was readily available to guests arriving for the ceremony. That prompted the Academy in 1941 to adopt the sealed-envelope system still in use today.
Fifteen statuettes were awarded at the first ceremony for cinematic achievements in 1927 and 1928. The first Best Actor winner was acclaimed German tragedian Emil Jannings, who had to return to Europe before the ceremony.
The Academy granted his request to receive the trophy early, making his statuette the very first Academy Award ever presented.
The first presentation was the only one to escape a media audience; by the second year, enthusiasm for the Awards was such that a Los Angeles radio station produced a live one-hour broadcast of the event. The ceremony has been broadcast ever since.
The Academy continued to hand out the awards at banquets – held at the Ambassador and Biltmore hotels – until 1942, when increased attendance made these dinner ceremonies impractical. Starting with the 16th Oscar ceremony, which was held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, the event has always been held at a theatre.
In 1953, the first televised Oscar ceremony enabled millions throughout the United States and Canada to watch the proceedings. Broadcasting in colour began in 1966, affording home viewers a chance to fully experience the dazzling allure of the event.
Since 1969, the Oscar show has been broadcast internationally, now reaching movie fans in over 200 countries.