The History of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, has been distributed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of excellence and achievement within the film industry since 1929, making it the oldest awards ceremony in the history of all media. These awards established the paradigm upon which the Grammys, Emmys, and Tonys are based (its music, television, and theatre industry equivalents, respectively).

The organization’s goals were defined as developing a means of honoring notable achievements in film in order to encourage even greater efforts and achievements in the future of the industry. The man behind the establishment of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927 was Louis B. Mayer, boss of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios.

On May 16, 1929, the Academy Awards held its first ceremony, honoring 15 statuette winners (who had already been announced three months in advance of the event). Director William C. deMille hosted the event, along with Douglas Fairbanks, actor and Academy president, who distributed all the awards himself that night. It took place in the Blossom Room at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood, California during a private banquet for approximately 260 attendants. The inaugural Academy Awards ceremony cost five dollars to attend, and an after party took place at the Mayfair Hotel. Emil Jannings was the recipient of the first Academy Award for Best Actor, for his Akademia roles in both The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. Best Picture that year was Wings, the only silent film to ever win the award for Best Picture in the entire history of the Academy Awards.

From 1930 until 1943, the awards ceremony took place at either the Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood or the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. However, by 1944, increased guest attendance rendered the usual banquet halls impractical, with theatres seeming to be more appropriate venues from that year on. Thus, from 1944-1946, the ceremony took place at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, then at the Shrine Auditorium from 1947-1948. The next year, they took place at the Academy Award Theater in Hollywood; then for the next ten years, they took place at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. From 1953-1957, Academy Award ceremonies were held on the East and West Coasts simultaneously, with one taking place in Hollywood, and one taking place in New York.

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