The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was the brainchild of then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) head, Louie B. Mayer who along with other industry heavyweights of the time founded the Academy in 1927. At the time Mayer hoped to elevate the public’s perception of film and cinema. Two years after the Academy’s founding, the first annual Academy Awards took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. Only fifteen awards were given out during the brunch ceremony that day, with a lot less fanfare than the Oscars as we know them today. The winners weren’t even shocked by the ceremony’s award presentations – the Academy had already announced the winners three months earlier.
AMPAS itself is made up of more than 5,000 film industry professionals. In order to shortlist nominations, Academy members place votes in each of their respective categories (for example, actors would only place votes in acting categories). Nominations are then announced, usually in late January. Most award categories have five nominees or less, except for Best Picture which can now include up to ten films.
Only films theatrically released in Los Angeles within the previous calendar year are eligible for Academy’s consideration.
Once the nominations are confirmed, all AMPAS members are then eligible to vote in each of the award categories. These votes are then counted and the results of the winners are placed within sealed envelopes – only to be opened during the live ceremony.