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Everything You Need to Know About Attending the Academy Awards

January 26th, 2017

Attending The Academy Awards: Everything You Need To Know

As a first-time Academy Awards (Oscars) attendee, your head is probably swirling with questions. What is the most appropriate attire? What is the etiquette for the event? How long does the Oscars ceremony last? And why do they call the statue “Oscar”?

Whether you are an emerging celebrity who received a coveted invitation, a reporter assigned to cover the excitement or the guest of an exclusive invitee, it’s important to be prepared for this incredible experience. Our Academy Awards guide can help, giving you a strong background on the history of the Academy Awards, the present expectations for participants and all the little nuances that make the Oscars the pinnacle of red carpet Hollywood events.


A Little About the Academy Awards History

Although we now think of the annual Academy Awards as a mainstay, it hasn’t even been around for a century. The date of the first Academy Awards ceremony was May 16, 1929, and has its roots in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which was established by MGM magnate Louis B. Mayer. As you might guess, it wasn’t broadcast throughout the world because television had not yet entered the American home! People found out about the winners through other means, such as newspapers and movie-related magazines.

The ceremony was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, where around 250 invitees attended what can best be described as a dinner soirée. Host Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., had the honor of giving out trophies to talented stars. But unlike modern Academy Awards ceremonies, there was no surprise. Everyone in attendance was told of the winners beforehand, so the event was a private formality rather than a public occasion.

At that initial Academy Awards event, there weren’t as many award categories as there are today. Only 12 categories and two honors made the cut. This makes sense from a historic perspective, since many of today’s Academy Award categories are based on technology not yet invented in the early part of the 20th century. “Talking” pictures weren’t even considered Awards-ready in 1929 since they were seen as too new. All the winners in 1929 were from what we now call the Silent Screen Era.

At this point, the ceremony that is televised across the globe includes 24 Oscar award categories, such as Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Picture, among others. It usually also includes special performances and other honors. There are additional Oscars for lesser-known categories, but those winners receive statues before the big event.


Where the Academy Awards Take Place Today

When you head to the Oscars this year, you won’t be going to the Roosevelt Hotel where it began. You’ll be enjoying the show from the Dolby Theatre, where it’s been held since the early 2000s. Not surprisingly, the Dolby has become a sightseeing mecca because of its relationship to the Oscars, as well as being synonymous with wealth, fame and glamour.

The Dolby Theatre is expansive and well-suited to the Oscars. You may have noticed there is never an empty seat when the camera pans across the Oscars audience. While that’s partially because the event is incredibly popular, it’s also due to the fact that stand-ins are given fill-in seats. Have to leave for any reason, such as to use the powder room? A well-trained volunteer will be on hand to take your place. This ensures all seats will be occupied at all times. When you return, your seat will be relinquished by the extra.

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As an audience member, you are expected to stay focused on the program, just as you would during any performance. The Oscars etiquette is similar to what you know of from operas, Broadway plays, musical concerts and comparable places.

Remember: The closer you are sitting to celebrities who are likely to get camera time, the more often the camera may fall on you. Keep this in mind for the entirety of the several-hour-long show. Even if you become a little bored at times, never show it. You always want to put on a smiling countenance.


How to Dress for the Oscars

Knowing your fashion tastes will be on display for an international audience, it’s critical to begin planning a sophisticated, classy, trendsetting wardrobe. Unless you are trying to make a bold statement that sets you apart from general society, you’ll want to stick with exclusive clothing made by top designers. Many individuals watch the Academy Awards strictly for the clothing and jewelry. Don’t disappoint them!

Both men and women are expected to flaunt one-of-a-kind looks on the red carpet, so it’s common to see clothing that has been specially designed just for the night. This goes for jewelry and other accessories, too. In some cases, you may be able to rent jewels for the Oscars, especially if they have astronomical price tags. This is a common practice, so don’t feel strange about wearing a necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc., that you intend to return. Check with your favorite high-end jewelry showroom to see if this is a possibility if you don’t want to own what you wear to the event.

As for hair and makeup, you want to pay for the best hairdresser and makeup artist you can afford. Plenty of professionals offer their services for the Academy Awards. Ask your personal assistant to gather a list of names and portfolios. Find someone with an excellent reputation and who matches your personality. You want to look and feel amazing all night, and your personal styling team will help you achieve that goal.

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Surprised at the costs and time that go into planning for attending the Oscars? The good news is all Oscar invitees get an extravagant goodie bag stuffed with merchandise worth thousands of dollars. The contents change each year, but it’s safe to assume you’ll head home with a tremendous, enviable swag bag. This definitely makes up for all the time and energy you spend getting camera-ready!


Perfecting the Red Carpet Experience

To the untrained, walking the red carpet can be an experience filled with worry. But you don’t need to fret, because it’s actually very straightforward. Generally, you will be escorted out of your limousine at the red carpet entrance between 4:00 p.m. and approximately 5:30 p.m. on the night of the show. From that point, you will be expected to gracefully enter the Theatre at a moderate pace, passing through the press corps who may try to snag snippets from you.

Fans on either side of the red carpet are likely to cheer, even if they don’t know you by name. They will be several people thick, so if this intimidates you, prepare yourself mentality. If you’re worried about them touching you, don’t be. Security is very solid at the Oscars, and you’ll be protected from the throngs of onlookers. Not a fan of getting your picture taken? You’ll have to accept it for the night because flashbulbs and snapping cameras are the name of the game!

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For those who are very wary of their abilities to successfully navigate the paparazzi gauntlet, there are expert drama and image consultant coaches available to help you perfect both your walk and your poses, and they can be well worth the investment. Every penny you put into getting it right will pay off when you wake up the next morning and realize you rocked the red carpet with ease — even if you were filled with a perfectly understandable mixture of anxiety and excitement.

Are you a reporter covering the Academy Awards for the first time this year? You’ll be stationed alongside the red carpet so you can gather photos and impromptu interviews. Plan to be on your feet the whole time, and eat well beforehand to ensure your stamina holds up.


Understanding the Oscars Teleprompter

You’ll be able to tell right away the Academy Awards ceremony is a mostly scripted performance, with the exception of the winners who may go off on tangents during their thank-you speeches. Each presenter reads off the teleprompter, and if you’re one of the presenters, you’ll be expected to show up for a rehearsal beforehand to practice. This practice is basically a walk-through and is kept low-key. You get the experience, but don’t have to dress up for the rehearsal.

New to the art of speaking in front of thousands of eager listeners? Making a teleprompter script sound seamless can be challenging, even for well-trained actors. Give yourself time to get to know how it feels to read from a TV screen that isn’t inches in front of your face, but rather several feet away. You can set up your own teleprompter at home, or you can find someone who will give you lessons on this art form.

If you happen to win an award, you’ll be expected to give a speech. Most people prefer to jot something down and have it with them. Even if you think your nomination isn’t going to land you a win, be prepared. The last thing you want is to suddenly realize you aren’t ready to address the audience.

One note to remember: This is a televised ceremony. Therefore, periodic breaks will be held for commercials. These breaks may be appropriate times for you to head to the bathroom or quickly stretch your legs. However, you’ll want to stay in tune with what’s happening around you. There is no room for a faux pas at the Oscars.


When to Eat & After-Ceremony Parties

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Before you leave for the Academy Awards, it’s best to eat a little something. Unlike other similar awards events, there is no food at the Oscars for attendees. This means, if you don’t eat beforehand, you’ll have to sit for hours with a growling stomach, which is something no one wants to experience or hear. Eating snacks would be seen as uncouth in the Dolby Theatre, so be sure to fuel up ahead of time.

This isn’t to say you’re never going to get any meals. The party is just beginning as the Oscars are winding down, and you’ll probably be heading to one of the Academy Award celebrations. You can either come in your Oscars attire, or head to your hotel or nearby home for a quick change. Some parties are more black-tie than others, so make sure you know the dress parameters before you arrive, if you can get the information.

The A-list parties are usually invite-only, but there are some parties on the town that you can pay to attend. Do a little research, or hire a personal assistant to get all the information on parties happening right after the Oscars wrap up. Being seen on the scene is essential for catapulting you into a more recognizable position among the Hollywood elite including talent, producers, directors and screenwriters.

For reporters, after-Oscars parties are a must-attend. If you’re trying to get the scoop on recent winners and losers, you need to be where the stars go. Food and cocktails generally flow freely at Academy Awards parties, but go easy. You want to recall every moment of this incredible night! Plus, you will want to pace yourself and savor all the bits and bites. Many celebrity chefs have designed after-Oscars party menus, and their culinary creations have consistently dazzled attendees.


Why Is It Called an “Oscar”?

One of the most enduring questions regarding the Oscars is the statuette called “Oscar” itself. Surprisingly, no one seems to know exactly how it got its iconic name. The only anecdote that has held the test of time suggests that either a librarian or Academy executive thought the statue looked familiar, like her uncle who was named “Oscar.” Thus, the moniker stuck and has passed on from generation to generation.

Is this really the way Oscar got his name? Or did something else happen along the way? We may never know. But one thing is for sure: You will look back on your Oscars experience as one of the pivotal moments of your life.