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17 of your burning Oscars questions, answered

Oscars 2020: How do the Academy Awards work?
WATCH: Oscars 2020: How do the Academy Awards work?

The 92nd Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 9 — the earliest the awards show has ever aired.

Oscars viewers might be wondering: why is it called the Oscars? Who’s been nominated for the most awards? How can someone join the Academy?

Here are the answers to 17 of the big questions surrounding the long-running awards show.

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READ MORE: 2020 Oscar nominations — Here's your full list of Academy Award nominees

In what year were the first Academy Awards hosted?

In 1929, William C. Demille, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (centre), hands the Oscar for Best Actress to Mary Pickford for her role in ‘My Best Girl’ and Best Actor to Warner Baxter for ‘Old Arizona’ (right). The author Hans Kraly (left) received the award for Best Screenplay for ‘The Patriot.’ (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
In 1929, William C. Demille, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (centre), hands the Oscar for Best Actress to Mary Pickford for her role in ‘My Best Girl’ and Best Actor to Warner Baxter for ‘Old Arizona’ (right). The author Hans Kraly (left) received the award for Best Screenplay for ‘The Patriot.’ (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

The first-ever Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles and honoured the best films of 1927 and 1928. The ceremony was hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) president Douglas Fairbanks, and tickets cost $5. The ceremony was not broadcast on radio or television.

Who votes for the Oscars?

Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Most categories are nominated by the Academy members of the corresponding branch — actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors and so on. Certain categories, such as the International Feature Film, Animated Feature Film and Short Film awards, have special voting rules. All voting members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees.

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How do Academy members vote on the Oscars?

Oscar Nominations
Oscar Nominations

The nomination voting process is conducted using paper and online ballots, with online voting being the preferred choice for the majority of Academy members, according to Oscars.org. The nomination results are then announced at a live televised press conference in mid-January at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The final voting is also conducted online, and all Oscar categories are on the ballot for voting members. After the final ballots are tabulated, only two partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers know the results until the envelopes are opened on stage during the live Oscars broadcast.

How can you join the Academy?

View of the stage during the 88th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 28, 2016 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
View of the stage during the 88th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 28, 2016 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Academy membership is limited to film artists working in the production of theatrically released motion pictures, according to Oscars.org.

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The Academy has 17 branches to accommodate individuals who work in motion picture production but don’t fit into one of the branches. The membership process is by sponsorship and not application. Each candidate must be sponsored by two academy members from the branch they seek to join. Academy Award nominees are automatically considered for membership and do not require sponsors.

Nominees and sponsored candidates are reviewed by branch committees, and recommendations are considered by the Academy’s board of governors. The board then decides which individuals will receive invitations. The review takes place once a year in the spring.

What was the original name of the Best Picture category? 

Academy Award nominees announced for Best Picture
Academy Award nominees announced for Best Picture

The original name of the Best Picture category was Outstanding Picture. During the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, there were two categories of awards that were considered the top accolades of the night, Outstanding Picture and Unique and Artistic Picture. The next year, the Academy dropped the Unique and Artistic Picture award and kept the Outstanding Picture title, but the name has undergone many changes over the years. From 1941 to 1943, it was called Outstanding Motion Picture and then Best Motion Picture from 1944 to 1961. Since 1962, the award has been called Best Picture.

Can nominees tie for an award?

In the beginning, the Academy’s rules stated that if a fellow contender came within three votes of the winner, both would receive the award. But by 1950, the rules changed to state that it needed to be an actual tie for more than one nominee to get the Oscar.

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There have been six ties in Academy Awards history:

1931-32: For Best Actor between Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery for The Champ
1949: For Best Documentary (Short Subject) for A Chance to Live and So Much for So Little
1968: For Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter and Barbara Streisand for Funny Girl
1986: For Best Documentary (Feature) for Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got and Down and Out in America
1994: For Best Short Film (Live Action) for Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Trevor
2012: For Sound Editing for Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty

Why are the Academy Awards also called “the Oscars?”

(L-R) Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Regina King and Mahershala Ali during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2019. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
(L-R) Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Regina King and Mahershala Ali during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2019. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The trophy handed out at the Academy Awards is called “Oscar.” It was officially named the Academy Award of Merit, but it became better known by its nickname, Oscar. The origins of the moniker aren’t exactly clear, but a popular story claims that Academy librarian (and, eventually, executive director) Margaret Herrick said the trophy resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy adopted the nickname officially in 1939, and it became widely known in 1934 after columnist Sidney Skolsky used it in a story referring to Katharine Hepburn’s first Best Actress win.

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Where did the design for the statue come from? 

Among the new rule changes, the academy has renamed the category Best Foreign Language Film. (Getty Images)
Among the new rule changes, the academy has renamed the category Best Foreign Language Film. (Getty Images) Carlo Allegri/Getty Image

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) art director Cedric Gibbons originally created the statue. The design of the Oscar statue depicts a knight standing on a reel of film and holding a sword. During the earlier ceremonies, they were made of gold-plated solid bronze, but over the years, the bronze was replaced with a Britannia metal, which is then plated in copper, nickel silver and 24-karat gold.

They are made by R.S. Owens & Company, and the manufacturer has been retained by the Academy since 1982. The diameter of an Oscar statue is 5.25 inches, and it is 13.5 inches in height. They’re not light, either: they weigh approximately eight-and-a-half pounds.

Which actor has been nominated for the most Oscars?

Actor Meryl Streep poses in the press room at the 84th annual Academy Awards held at Hollywood & Highland Center on Feb. 26, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
Actor Meryl Streep poses in the press room at the 84th annual Academy Awards held at Hollywood & Highland Center on Feb. 26, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)

Meryl Streep is the actor with the most Oscar nominations. With 21 nominations and three wins, she’s received more than anyone — not that anyone doubted her.

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  1. 1979: Best Supporting Actress for The Deer Hunter
  2. 1980: Best Supporting Actress for Kramer Vs. Kramer (won)
  3. 1982: Best Actress for The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  4. 1983: Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice (won)
  5. 1984: Best Actress for Silkwood
  6. 1986: Best Actress for Out of Africa
  7. 1988: Best Actress for Ironweed
  8. 1989: Best Actress for A Cry in the Dark
  9. 1991: Best Actress for Postcards from the Edge
  10. 1996: Best Actress for The Bridges of Madison County
  11. 1999: Best Actress for One True Thing
  12. 2000: Best Actress for Music of the Heart
  13. 2003: Best Supporting Actress for Adaptation
  14. 2007: Best Actress for The Devil Wears Prada
  15. 2009: Best Actress for Doubt
  16. 2010: Best Actress for Julie & Julia
  17. 2012: Best Actress for The Iron Lady (won)
  18. 2014: Best Actress for August: Osage County
  19. 2015: Best Supporting Actress for Into the Woods
  20. 2017: Best Actress for Florence Foster Jenkins
  21. 2018: Best Actress for The Post

Who has won the most Oscars?

Filmmaker Walt Disney holding his four Oscars for four different films at the 26th Academy Awards, March 25, 1954. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Filmmaker Walt Disney holding his four Oscars for four different films at the 26th Academy Awards, March 25, 1954. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Walt Disney holds the record for the most Oscars wins out of all the nominees in Academy Awards history. He won 26 Oscars over the course of his career and was nominated 59 times.

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Take a look at his Oscar wins below:

  1. 1932: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Flowers and Trees
  2. 1932: Honorary Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse
  3. 1934: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for The Three Little Pigs
  4. 1935: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for The Tortoise and the Hare
  5. 1936: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Three Orphan Kittens
  6. 1937: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for The Country Cousin
  7. 1938: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for The Old Mill
  8. 1939: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Ferdinand the Bull
  9. 1939: “Recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon” for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He received one statuette and seven miniature statuettes on a stepped base.
  10. 1940: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for The Ugly Duckling
  11. 1942: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Lend a Paw
  12. 1942: Certificate of merit to Disney, William Garity, John N.A. Hawkins and the RCA Manufacturing Company “for their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia.”
  13. 1942: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
  14. 1943: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Der Fuehrer’s Face
  15. 1949: Best Short Subject (Two-reel) for Seal Island
  16. 1951: Best Short Subject (Two-reel) for In Beaver Valley
  17. 1952: Best Short Subject (Two-reel) for Nature’s Half Acre
  18. 1953: Best Short Subject (Two-reel) for Water Birds
  19. 1954: Best Documentary (Feature) for The Living Desert
  20. 1954: Best Documentary (Short Subject) for The Alaskan Eskimo
  21. 1954: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom
  22. 1954: Best Short Subject (Two-reel) for Bear Country
  23. 1955: Best Documentary (Feature) for The Vanishing Prairie
  24. 1956: Best Documentary (Short Subject) for Men Against the Arctic
  25. 1959: Best Short Subject (Live Action) for Grand Canyon
  26. 1969: Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (posthumous win)

Who has won the most Oscars for acting?

‘The Little Minister’ (1934) directed by Richard Wallace. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images)
‘The Little Minister’ (1934) directed by Richard Wallace. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images)

Katharine Hepburn holds the title for the most Oscars for acting with four Academy Awards and 12 nominations.

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  1. 1934: Best Actress for Morning Glory (won)
  2. 1936: Best Actress for Alice Adams
  3. 1941: Best Actress for The Philadelphia Story
  4. 1943: Best Actress for Woman of the Year
  5. 1952: Best Actress for The African Queen
  6. 1956: Best Actress for Summertime
  7. 1957: Best Actress for The Rainmaker
  8. 1960: Best Actress for Suddenly, Last Summer
  9. 1963: Best Actress for Long Day’s Journey into Night
  10. 1968: Best Actress for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (won)
  11. 1969: Best Actress for The Lion in Winter (won)
  12. 1982: Best Actress for On Golden Pond (won)

How many women have been nominated for Best Director? 

Winner for Best Director Kathryn Bigelow for ‘The Hurt Locker’ gives her acceptance speech at the 82nd Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Calif., on March 7, 2010. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
Winner for Best Director Kathryn Bigelow for ‘The Hurt Locker’ gives her acceptance speech at the 82nd Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Calif., on March 7, 2010. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. One out of five took home the prize.

  1. 1977: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties
  2. 1994: Jane Campion for The Piano
  3. 2004: Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation
  4. 2010: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (won)
  5. 2018: Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Have any sequels won an Academy Award?

Francis Ford Coppola and his father. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Francis Ford Coppola and his father. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Yes, The Godfather: Part II won Best Picture in 1975. It is the only sequel to have won the Best Picture award.

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When were the longest and shortest Oscars ceremonies?

The shortest Oscars ceremony was the first one ever held in 1929. It lasted only about 15 minutes, and the winners had been announced three months earlier than the ceremony.

The shortest Oscars telecast was the 31st Academy Awards in 1959, which lasted one hour and 40 minutes.

The longest Oscars ceremony so far was the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000, hosted by Billy Crystal. The show was four hours and 16 minutes.

How long is the red carpet?

People arrive on the red carpet at the 81st annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on Feb. 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
People arrive on the red carpet at the 81st annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on Feb. 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The length of the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre is 500 feet, or about 152 metres. The capacity for the red carpet fan bleachers seats is 700.

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How does the Academy decide who sits where?

Olivia Colman accepts the Best Actress in a Leading Role award for ‘The Favourite’ onstage during the 91st annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 24, 2019 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Matt Petit — Handout/AMPAS via Getty Images)
Olivia Colman accepts the Best Actress in a Leading Role award for ‘The Favourite’ onstage during the 91st annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 24, 2019 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Matt Petit — Handout/AMPAS via Getty Images)

Otto Spoerri started handling the seating at the Academy Awards in 1980 and held that position until 2002. Some of the rules he created have stayed intact until this day. One of his main rules for the seating chart was that the biggest and baddest stars must occupy the first few rows. Other rules include:

  • Those who are thought to be the winners will take the aisle seats so they won’t have to climb over the other guests to get to the stage.
  • The nominees in the same category are not supposed to sit too close together because the Academy doesn’t want the viewers to see the winners celebrating and the losers sulking.
  • Ex-friends, ex-lovers and ex-spouses and other problematic people are not to sit near one another.
  • Only individuals pre-approved by the Academy have access to the bleacher seats.
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Publicists of celebrities are made aware of where their clients will be seated and who will be in their proximity. If there is any problem ahead of the ceremony, the publicist has time to contact the Academy and request a seating change.

What was in the “Everyone Wins” gift bags?

Distributed by the marketing agency Distinctive Assets, companies pay thousands of dollars for their products to be featured in the gift bags because… free celebrity endorsements.

Brace yourself, there’s a lot. 2019’s nominee gift bag — which every single nominated actor received — included:

From Coda Signature: The Crescendo Collection (hand-painted cannabis truffles), Coffee & Doughnuts Chocolate Bar, Cream & Crumble Chocolate Bar, Symphony Bath Bomb Collection and Limited Edition White Vape Battery.

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From International Expeditions: The nominee and a guest could choose one of four options — an adventure to Iceland, the Galapagos, the Amazon or Costa Rica and Panama. In addition to the trip, nominees were also gifted spa treatments, private chef-led Latin cooking lessons and secret celeb extensions in places like Quito or Lima. Depending on the trip they chose, the value ranged from $15,000 to $20,000 per person.

From Jarritos: The Mexican pop company provided ample product for an event of the celebrity’s choosing. Jarritos also treated the nominees to a Yeti cooler full of various flavours.

From Kalliope NYC: Phobia relief expert Kalliope Barlis offered an 18-minute session to help free nominees from bad memories and phobias using mindfulness methods.

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From MOTA Los Angeles: Nominees were gifted an annual membership to MOTA Los Angeles, which is a members-only, cannabis-friendly social club for creatives, complete with high-end concierge, spa services and custom event programming. The membership included access for the members and three guests.

From A. Junod Absinthe: White absinthe handcrafted at the Emile Pernot distillery in Pontarlier, France.

From Alexis Seletzky — Celebrity Trainer: Nominees were gifted a package of 10 personal training sessions with Alexis Seletzky.

From AP4GOOD: Nominees were gifted 100 per cent organic cotton designer T-shirts featuring limited edition art motifs.

From Artist John Thoman Stained Glass Portraits: Nominees were gifted one-of-a-kind custom stained-glass portraits created by John Thoman.

From Golden Door: Nominees were gifted a week of total mind, body and spirit renewal for two at this all-inclusive luxury wellness retreat.

 

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From 3d Wellness Retreat: Nominees were gifted a weekend of rejuvenation post-award show season with activities that included morning meditation, yoga, spa services, gourmet meals, an exclusive gifting suite and a cleansing ceremony with Shaman Soraya.

From Nest Seekers International: Nominees were gifted a poolside dinner prepared by a celebrity chef at one of Shawn Elliott’s ultra-luxury listings for the nominee and their friends.

From Oxygenetix: Nominees were gifted a one-year supply of Oxygenating Foundation, a breathable formula that promotes healing and provides complete coverage.

From PETA: Nominees were gifted a spy pen that enables the actors on set “to blow the whistle on animal abuse by filming it and then reporting it to PETA’s confidential whistleblower hotline.”

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From Posh Pretzels: Nominees were gifted a two-tier gourmet pretzel gift box.

From Rouge Maple: Nominees were gifted pure organic maple syrup and glamour gourmet gift set.

From WSJ. Magazine: Nominees were gifted the latest issue of WSJ. Magazine and a three-month free subscription card.

Other gifts included were from Avaton Luxury Villas Resort, CBDRxSupreme, High Beauty, Love Is Stronger Than Hate, Millianna, Mz Skin, Organic Hair Care, Pepperidge Farm Milano, Safety Dog Leash, Salix Lotion, TRU NIAGEN, Vidahair Growth and Zuzu Kim.

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The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony airs on Sunday, Feb. 9, with the red carpet show starting at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.