Academy Awards®


In early January, the Academy solicits nominations for "awards of merit" for an individual or a collaborative effort in up to twenty-five categories. To be eligible for nomination, each responsible production agency must submit an alphabetized list of qualified films to the Academy. Beginning in 1934, the calendar year determines the eligibility period during which any potential nominee must have a theatrical run for a minimum of one week in Los Angeles. While most nominees now also show in New York, this venue is not required.

From these lists, members of technical and artistic branches nominate within their category; that is, editors nominate editors, producers nominate producers, and so on. In each category, up to five nominations may be accepted. Nominations for best foreign-language film, defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue track, follow a different procedure, as do the documentary nominations. Foreign countries, following their own individual procedures, submit one film for consideration as their entry in the Best Foreign Film category, and the foreign film eligibility period runs from 1 November to 31 October instead of the calendar year. A committee representing all Academy branches selects up to five finalists for the Best Foreign Film award, and all members vote for the recipient.

Divided into two categories, documentary candidates also follow different rules. Among other stipulations, feature documentaries (more than forty minutes in length) must be submitted with accompanying certification of theatrical exhibition for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater, and such exhibition must be within two years of the film's completion date. Short-subject documentaries (under forty minutes) may qualify after theatrical exhibition or by winning a Best Documentary Award at a competitive film festival. Documentary candidates eligible for nomination are viewed by the documentary branch screening committee, which then nominates no more than five and no fewer than three candidates for the Oscar ® . Only lifetime and active Academy members who view all contenders at a theatrical screening and the members of the screening committee vote for the documentary category. By contrast, nominations for Best Film are solicited from all members, regardless of their branch affiliation. In its earliest years, Academy practices varied; upon occasion, industry workers and guild members also nominated or voted, and occasionally write-ins were accepted on Oscar ® ballots.

Categories for the Academy Awards ® have changed over the decades. In 1934 the Academy added the categories of Film Editing, Music Scoring, and Best Song. Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress categories were included in 1936, the Best Documentary category in 1941, and, most recently, the Animated Feature Film category in 2001.

Beginning in 2005, the Academy announces nominations in the last week of January and mails Award of Merit ballots in early February with a two-week return deadline. Coding prevents forgeries, and Price water house Coopers (formerly Price Waterhouse and Company, an accounting firm, which began work for the Academy in 1936) enforces top-secret measures to maintain confidentiality. In fact, only two PricewaterhouseCoopers partners know the results before public announcement during the annual telecast of the Awards ceremony. Until 1941, the press received several hours advance notice of awardees, but beginning that year the Academy added the element of surprise: both press and public learn the winners when the envelopes are opened. In response to other attention-grabbing award ceremonies, the Academy moved its ceremony from March to February in 2005. Attendance at the Awards ceremony is by invitation; no tickets are sold by the Academy.

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