The Academy Awards is the biggest night in Hollywood — and all the stars come out to shine a light on the best movies of the year. Fans and critics will bask in the glow of A-list glamor and watch with bated breath to see who won, who lost, and who caused a scene. But in all the excitement, it's easy to forget that it takes a village to pull off the Oscars with such aplomb. How do they do it? Well, the answer to that is arguably as fascinating as the show itself.
The red carpet is a unique shade of red
The red carpet that's rolled out for the Oscars is not just any ordinary red carpet. For one thing, its color is known as Academy Red and is an exclusive hue created specifically for this event. It's so singular, in fact, that no one knows the secrets of the shade. "Some things that make the Academy Awards the Academy Awards should be proprietary," associate producer Joe Lewis explained to newspaper the Los Angeles Times in 2017.
It takes a loooooong time to roll out the red carpet
We call it the red carpet, but it's more like a red road. This thing is 50,000 square feet and is looked after by Signature Systems Group. The company has 18 people in charge of the unique rug, and they will spend about 900 man-hours getting it just right for the big night. "There are road closures, there is heavy security," Lynn Nichols from Signature Systems explained to the LA Times in 2017. But, they added, "there is definitely a buzz in the air."
The first red carpet was rolled out in 1961
You could argue that it just wouldn't be the same Academy Awards if they didn't have a red carpet. And you would be kind of right and kind of wrong. The carpet is certainly a tradition of the ceremony — and one that allows celebrities and designers to show off their unforgettable fashion. But the Oscars did go ahead without the red carpet for over 30 years, with the first one making its appearance in 1961.
The red carpet is guarded by security for good reason
You might think it odd that a carpet needs a heavy security presence — but this is one sought-after carpet. "I know that people have taken hunks out of the carpet in the past," Oscars associate producer Lewis told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. "You could put it on eBay." So if you were thinking that you might be able to try to walk on part of the red carpet yourself, think again.
The voting happens in an insane amount of secrecy
There are more than 10,000 members in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — and that means there are a lot of votes to count for the Oscars. The company in charge of tabulating all these votes is PricewaterhouseCoopers. Employees from the accounting firm will literally lock themselves in a room and not see the outside world until the counting is complete. Apparently, though, they do find time to order some takeaway pizza.
Only two people know who's won Oscars before the envelopes are opened
After the final Oscar vote has been confirmed, the sealed envelopes with the winners' names inside make their way to the ceremony. Two PricewaterhouseCoopers employees then each have a suitcase containing matching sets of winners' envelopes. They each take separate routes to the Academy Awards — under armed guard! This is a contingency plan in case one of them is late or otherwise indisposed.
The winners' names remain under security the whole time
There is no messing about when it comes to keeping the names of the winners a secret. The only people who have access to the envelopes are watched by security backstage for the entirety of the awards show. "People are surprised when they learn about the level of security that goes into all of this," Brian Cullinan from PricewaterhouseCoopers told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. "But if the results were to ever leak out ahead of the show, that would be a disaster for everybody involved."
There's a red carpet emcee
Awards shows may seem a bit stuffy from the outside — fancy clothes, fancy food, fancy venues — but it's not all formal. When the talent arrives on the red carpet, for example, Chris Connelly acts as an emcee to let the fans know who's coming and who's going. Connelly also has the job of keeping the fans' energy up for the whole time, not unlike a warm-up artist at a game show recording.
The Oscars bring millions of dollars to the local economy
The Academy Awards are big business in Hollywood, but the ceremony also boosts the surrounding economy in Los Angeles. Salons will become booked up by people wanting to look their best on the night. Chauffeurs will be more in-demand than ever. Even those companies that offer tours of celebrity homes will see a bump from movie-loving fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars. For some businesses, it can be the most important time of the year.
Oscar nominees can have up to four tickets each — but it costs
Ever wanted to have a seat at the Academy Awards? Your best bet is to be friends with one of the nominees. Everyone who is up for an Oscar will get a free pair of tickets plus the chance to buy two more tickets each. These additional seats will each be priced between $150 and $750 — depending on how close they are to the stage. And the good news is that the movie studio will likely swallow the cost.
The bigger your name, the closer you are to the stage
The Academy puts a lot of thought into the seating arrangements on Oscar night. This is, first and foremost, an entertainment show, so the organizers want their talent where people can see them. It's not by chance that the biggest stars of the ceremony are sitting front and center when the cameras go live. That does mean, however, that the nominees from the "below the line" categories will likely be seated toward the back of the room.
Everyone wins with a six-figure gift bag
The goodie bags can be a controversial element of any awards show. These incredibly valuable things are, after all, being handed to people who arguably already have enough of everything. But the goodie bags don't seem to be going away anytime soon — and they are always fun to look at and debate. In 2023 all the Oscar hopefuls will walk away with a trunk of goodies worth over $100,000. Not bad, eh?
Firms pay a lot of money for a goodie-bag slot
If the idea of Oscar nominees receiving $100,000 gift bags is hard to bear, you won't believe what the brands pay to get their stuff inside of them. The fee is $4,000 a pop — and that's not including the value of whatever gift the brands choose to provide. The kicker is that the only pay-off for the sponsors is that an A-lister might post about their gifts after the ceremony.
The Oscar statuette has precise measurements
What's it like to hold an Oscar? Well, the little knight with his crusader's sword is made from solid bronze and then plated with 24-karat gold. Oscar — officially known as the Academy Award of Merit — also measures 13.5 inches tall and weighs exactly 8.5 pounds. How heavy is that? When Taika Waititi won an Academy Award for Jojo Rabbit in 2020, he joked, "This is really light! It’s supposed to be heavy."
There's more to the statuette than meets the eye
Did you know that the Oscar statuette is actually standing on a reel of film? And, in a nice touch, original designer Cedric Gibbons gave the film reel five spokes to represent the five founding segments of the Academy: writers, producers, technicians, directors, and of course actors. These days, there are 17 branches of the Academy — but still only five spokes on the film reel.
There are 12 steps to making an Oscar
Considering it's the most coveted prize in Tinsel Town, it's perhaps not surprising that so much care and attention is paid to the creation of an Oscar. The statuette is manufactured by UAP Polich Tallix, and there is a 12-step process to the production line. It takes around three months to make 50 statuettes, and the trophies go straight from Polich Tallix to the Academy.
They sometimes have leftover Oscars
The Academy has no way of knowing exactly how many Oscar trophies it's going to need on the big night. Sure, there's probably only going to be one winner in each actor category, but what about the Best Picture category? How many producers are going to be involved with the eventual winner? This uncertainly is why the organization produces more Oscar statuettes than it'll need and then safely stores any leftovers for next year's ceremony.
You can't sell your Oscar
Winners who've been struck by the so-called "Oscar curse" might later consider selling their trophies to change their fortunes. After all, Michael Jackson once paid $1.5 million for the Gone With the Wind Oscar won by David O. Selznick. But anybody who's ever won an Oscar between 1951 and today would be out of luck. These days, Academy Award winners need to agree to give the Academy first refusal for any unwanted Oscars. Its price? $1.
Regular people can watch the red-carpet arrivals
It's not only actors and moviemakers who get to experience the glamor of the red carpet. Those who are not content to watch the event from the comfort of their own homes can apply for one of the 700 bleacher seats reserved for fans beside the red carpet. The Academy calls this the Oscars Fan Experience and claims it gives fans "a unique view of all the action." Food, drink, and other special treats are available to the lucky ticket-lottery winners who get to go.
Academy members vote for the winners with preferential ballots
When you hear about Oscar voting, it's easy to assume that voters are simply voting for the movies and performances they liked best. But in actual fact, voters have to provide ranked-choice ballots for the given categories. This method — common in other voting systems — means that each vote counts in one way or another to the final outcome.
Winning an Oscar gives actors a nice salary bump
There is no cash prize that comes with winning an Oscar. Yet there is still a financial incentive to getting your name read out on the night. In 2016 an honors thesis from Colgate University claimed that an Oscar win could mean a pay increase of as much as $3.9 million for a male actor and $500,000 for a female actor on their next project. "Everybody gets more money; the question is how much," movie critic Emmanuel Levy explained to website Bankrate.
The Dolby Theater's unique way to honor Best Picture winners
The Academy Awards are normally held at the Dolby Theater. It's a gorgeous venue designed especially for the purpose of hosting the ceremony. And if you look closely at the details of the theater, you'll probably notice one little Easter egg. Yes, the glorious stone columns out the front are adorned with the titles of movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar throughout the years.
You can buy a ticket to a glam Oscars after-party — if you have a small fortune
Anybody who's ever taken a passing interest in the Oscars will have heard about the after-parties. The most legendary ones are the parties hosted by Vanity Fair magazine and Elton John. And while you may have thought that these events were exclusive to the Hollywood elite, you can actually grab yourself a ticket, too. All you have to do is look on ticket broker VIP Concierge and cough up the required $4,665 for Elton John's party. The Vanity Fair is a snip at just $25,000.
There's an Oscars rehearsal — the day beforehand
Considering the number of times things have gone wrong at the Oscars — "The Slap" in 2022, the Moonlight/La La Land mix-up in 2017 — it's surprising to learn that the Academy Awards are rehearsed. It is the only major awards show that requires its presenters to show up for a rehearsal the day before the main event. The on-camera talent will need to spare 20 minutes of their time to practice their lines and present a fake award.
Oscar nominees will not be sitting near one another
It's not a coincidence that actors and technicians who are nominated in the same category are not sitting near one another on Oscar night. First off, the Academy wants to feature each nominee in his or her own camera shot. And second, the organizers no doubt want to give the eventual winner the chance to celebrate without having to see their also-ran competition in the next seat.
The Academy tries to avoid things getting personal in the theater
One part of the seating-arrangement puzzle that might get overlooked is the potential for personal drama. It's not out of the question that actors who have previously had relationships with one another could get nominated for Oscars on the same night. So one important rule of the seating plan is to keep ex-spouses and ex-partners away from each other. The prospect of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston being in the same room was enough to cause headlines in 2009.
Seat-fillers can't talk to the talent
It's well known that seat-fillers are employed to make sure the cameras don't broadcast any empty seats during Oscars night. But the people filling those seats are only allowed to sit and smile — they definitely can't use their time gossiping with the actorly crowd. "You are not allowed to speak to the celebrities, make any ruckus, you’re supposed to be quiet," veteran seat-filler Laura Cain told the I’ve Got News For You podcast in 2022.
Seat-fillers have to abide by strict rules
Each Oscars night, the Academy will have about 300 seat-fillers ready to make their auditorium seem full at all times. But these lucky few have to live by the Academy's rules. This means that they wear a name tag whenever they're not on camera and that they only speak to celebrities when they're spoken to. Seat-fillers can also only wear certain outfits. "They have to approve the gown before you even show up," Laura Cain explained on the I’ve Got News For You podcast in 2022. "Your make-up, hair, the whole thing."
Every Oscar nominee has a nameplate just in case
You may have seen the viral video of Leonardo DiCaprio getting his Oscar personalized after his win for The Revenant. Well, this was only made possible thanks to the intense planning of the Academy Awards. Because the Academy doesn't know who is going to win the awards on the night, it produces a nameplate for each potential winner. Then after the ceremony, the winners get their Oscars adorned with the right nameplates — and the rest are sent for recycling.
There has been a streaker
The best-laid plans of all involved can't account for every possibility. But — discounting The Slap in 2022 — the biggest shock to have occurred at the Oscars is when a streaker graced the stage in 1974. At the time, presenter David Niven joked, "Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"
It costs a staggering amount of money to host the awards
It is the night of nights for the Hollywood elite, so you'd expect the awards ceremony to cost a pretty penny. But $42 million? That seems excessive! This was the figure for the 2020 ceremony, with the 2021 ceremony costing a little more at $42.9 million. In all fairness, this figure takes into account everything from the pre-Oscars nominees' luncheon to the post-Oscars Governors Ball. The cost of the actual ceremony is more like $21 million or $22 million.
Oscar nominees will be on the red carpet for a while
The Oscars ceremony is a three-hour event — but anyone up for an award is in for a much longer night. It's been estimated that it'll take people anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour just to walk the red carpet. They will have to pose for pictures, stand for interviews, and maybe even speak to the fans. And that's not to mention the possibility of getting caught up in the inevitable bottleneck as people arrive at the same time.
The Academy has a crisis team to manage any more moments like "The Slap"
After what happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock in 2022, the Academy took the decision to employ a "crisis team" for the 2023 event. Chief executive Bill Kramer explained to Time magazine, "We’ve run many scenarios. So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now, but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen."
The nominees get their own luncheon
Since the early 1980s, the Academy has hosted a pre-Oscars luncheon for all of its nominees. This is, strangely enough, one of the few times that all of these people will be in the same room and not waiting to receive some awards. It's a chance for the nominees to catch up or meet for the first time — and take their place in the "class photo" that always marks the occasion.
There's no time to rest after winning an Oscar
What happens after you get an Oscar? You certainly don't get time to process it all. Apparently, you're handed a glass of Champagne and then whisked down "Winner's Walk" to start doing some press. First, the newly minted Oscar-winner will have their photo taken. And then they'll answer questions from journalists in the Loews hotel. After this, they can either rejoin the ceremony or head to the after-party.
Oscar-winners love chicken pot pie
The Governors Ball — held after the Academy Awards — is the official after-party of the Oscars. And this is where starving Oscar attendees will start getting some food. The menu changes each year, of course, but one of the mainstays of the past ten years has been chicken pot pie. "It's a perennial favorite of the guests and is the most requested dish that sees a comeback every year," chef Elliott Grover told Vice magazine in 2023.
Stars get paid to wear those designer dresses
Oscars fashion is one of the most talked-about elements before, during, and after any Academy Awards show. But one of the under-discussed parts of this whole deal is that actors are sometimes actually paid to wear these fabulous outfits. For instance, In 2006 Charlize Theron pocketed a tidy $200,000 for donning a Chopard gown on the red carpet. Actors may also be paid to wear certain designers as part of a larger sponsorship deal.
It can take even longer to get ready
The Academy Awards is assigned a three-hour timeslot for its broadcast — but it has often run long. The most notorious example came in 2002 when the ceremony lasted four hours and 23 minutes! But even this pales in comparison to the amount of time it takes attendees to get ready. Vogue magazine said that dressing a star for their moment in the spotlight can take a minimum of three hours — and as many as 12!
The Governors Ball is the official after-party
There are plenty of after-parties to choose from following the Oscars, but the only official one is the Governors Ball. All of the Oscar nominees and winners will get an invite in addition to the presenters, hosts, and producers of the show. And you better believe that there is no skimping on the spectacle. The Guardian revealed in 2017 that the Governors Ball costs an extravagant $1.8 million, including the food from renowned chef Wolfgang Puck.
It costs a lot to get an Oscar
Andrea Riseborough caused a stir in 2023 when she was nominated for an Oscar following a grassroots campaign. This only highlighted how much work usually goes into getting someone a nomination. The Guardian estimated that a typical Oscar campaign will set a movie studio back between $5 million and $8 million. This figure will include the cost of buying commercials, as well as putting on film screenings and getting their stars to do as many interviews as possible.