At the most recent Academy Awards, nearly 30 million people from the United States tuned in. It was the 91st ceremony, and was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California. Getting into Oscars these days is nearly impossible, too. There are around 3,400 seats in the venue, with the nominees taking up quite a bit. Not only do all 200 or so of the nominees get two tickets, but they can get two more when they ask.
Pretty much every nominee will get four seats, and that alone takes up about a quarter of the capacity. ABC, who airs the broadcast every year, also needs space for media members and equipment in the building. Higher ups for the major sponsors also get preferred seating at the Oscars, and then there are those that are members of the Academy and other major players in Hollywood (including presenters) to fill out the rest.
The public doesn’t really get tickets available, though they might be able to sway a member of the Academy for their seat. All of this is much different than the first Academy Awards ceremony that was held in 1929.
It took place on May 16 of that year (and is now held in February), and there wasn’t any of the hoopla that comes with the Oscars. For the only time in Oscars history, there was no broadcast of the event. The crowd at the Blossom Ballroom in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel only had around 270 attendees, who each paid $5 for entry, which would still be a huge discount at around $75 in today’s money.
The runtime for the Oscars on network television can also be several hours long, with the record being nearly four and a half hours. The first was all said and done in just 15 minutes, less than the time it takes for the average person to eat lunch. Instead of a glut of categories and nominees, there were just 12 awards given overall.
There was still engineering effects and art direction, but the mainstays took up most of the ceremony with best actor/actress, directing (although it was split into comedy and drama), writing (both original and adapted) and best film. This one was also split, as the first had both an Outstanding Picture and Best Unique and Artistic Picture category.
Lewis Milestone took home the title for Best Directing thanks to “Two Arabian Knights” for comedy, and Frank Borzage for “7th Heaven” in the drama department. Emil Jennings won Best Actor for his two films (“The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh”) and Janet Gaynor won for three (“7th Heaven”, “Street Angel” and “Sunrise”). Needless to say, things were far, far different in 1929 compared to today’s Oscars as we know it.