It all started at a dinner party in 1927. Louis B. Mayer, the studio chief and one of the M’s in MGM studios, along with three of his dinner guests began conceiving the idea of an organization to benefit and promote the film industry. They had a second dinner party the following week to gather more clout amongst other industry professionals such as Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, and Irving Thalberg. The idea was well received and within a few months the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was born.
The very first Academy Award ceremony took place on May 16th, 1929 and was held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. They had a dinner banquet with less than three hundred people in attendance. All of the actors, directors, and other professionals already knew who was going to win as the winners had been announced three months prior. In fact the first winner in the Best Actor category, Emil Jannings, was unable to attend the dinner and was given his award prior to the ceremony and is now credited as being the first Academy Award winner. There were only 12 categories awarded that evening with fifteen statuettes being handed out. The entire handing out of awards lasted almost fifteen minutes.
Over the years that followed the Awards evolve into the ceremony that it is today. The second show changed by announcing the winners the night of the ceremony instead of months in advance. Only newspapers were given advanced notice of who would win so they could be published in the following morning early edition. The closed envelope system wasn’t invented for another ten years when the L.A. times published the names of the winners in advance of the evening ceremony, thus ending any advance notice for the press.
Over the years many categories were dropped or added, and the amount of nominations has changed many times. For more on the history of the Oscars check out their website here: History of the Academy Awards. And for a complete list of this year’s nominees click here: 2014 Oscar Nominees.