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Oscar Returns to Hollywood - 2002-03-23

The Academy Awards return to Hollywood Sunday, as the movie industry moves its annual celebration back to the part of Los Angeles where it started. The entertainment gala will be held in a new theater designed especially for the event.

The $600 million Kodak Theatre complex was built as the new home of the "Oscar," as the Academy Award statuette is fondly known. In 1929, the first Academy Awards were presented in the nearby Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Two-hundred-fifty people attended. There were long speeches and a short award presentation. The Oscars were handed out in just five minutes.

Bruce Davis is executive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the Oscars. "It did start out as a very small thing. It immediately caught the public's attention, and we are certainly the biggest arts award in the world at this point," Mr. Davis says.

The name "Oscar" didn't come into use until the 1930s, and no one is sure exactly where it came from. The most popular theory holds that Academy librarian Margaret Herrick said the statue looked just like her uncle Oscar.

In 1944, the Oscar celebration moved to Grauman's Chinese Theater, across the street from the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. The event was aired on radio around the United States and broadcast to U.S. troops serving overseas during the World War II. In 1953, the Oscars were aired for the first time on U.S. television.

"In the 1960s, the Oscar ceremony left Hollywood and moved to the civic auditorium in the beach community of Santa Monica. Later, it moved to downtown Los Angeles, alternating between the Los Angeles Music Center and the Shrine Auditorium," he says.

The return to Hollywood this year has caused some problems, says Academy executive director Bruce Davis.

"More members wanted to go this year than we can ever remember."

The motion picture academy has 6,500 members, who are artists, executives and craftsmen in the movie industry. But only 3,100 people can fit in the Kodak Theatre, as it is configured for the Oscars. Four-thousand attended the event last year at another location.

Those assured of a seat include Oscar nominees in 24 categories, which honor actors, directors, make up artists, costume designers and others.

The winners will go home with a 34 centimeter-high gold plated statuette, shaped as a knight atop a film reel, his hands gripping a sword.

The Oscar is the U.S. movie industry's highest honor, and the Oscar presentation is the entertainment industry's premier event each year. This year, Oscar returns home to Hollywood.