Shocking Oscar Firsts! Did You Know Winners Were Announced Ahead of Time?

LOS ANGELES - 1990: A view of 11 Oscars statues lined up next to each other in 1990 in Los Angeles, California.
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The 2024 Oscar ceremony on Sunday, March 10 — marking the 96th Academy Awards —included a few notable firsts, but nothing compares to some of these firsts that happened years prior.

Let’s start with this year’s Oscar award ceremony first. Christopher Nolan received his first Oscar for Best Director in 2024 for Oppenheimer. The famed director was first nominated in 2002 for Best Original Screenplay for Memento; and in 2011 for Inception; and 2018 for Best Director for Dunkirk, but walked away empty-handed. The same can be said for Robert Downey Jr., he was first nominated for Chaplin (1992) and again for Tropic Thunder (2008) but the third time was a charm for the Iron Man actor as he took home the statue for Best Supporting Actor also Oppenheimer.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: Christopher Nolan, winner of the Best Directing award and the Best Picture award for “Oppenheimer”, poses in the press room during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California.

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Best Documentary winner 20 Days in Mariupol marked a first for AP and PBS Frontline.

While Wes Anderson has been nominated for eight Oscars, he finally won his first in 2024 for his 39-minute live-action short film The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.

Meanwhile, Lily Gladstone made history as the first Native American woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Killers of the Flower Moon, the Oscar went to Emma Stone for her role in Poor Things.

Here we look back at some notable Oscar firsts.

Winners No Longer Informed in Advance

THE 13TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS -- Pictured: Bette Davis thanks President Roosevelt for his talk at the Motion Picture Academy banquet during the 13th Annual Academy Awards held at the Biltmore Bowl in the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California on February 27, 1941--

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The winners of the 1941 award ceremony (honoring 1940 films) were no longer notified in advance of their win. Names were kept completely sealed and envelopes were guarded. In 1940 newspapers also were no longer furnished with the names of award winners in advance prior to the actual presentation of the awards. Only two representatives from the Academy’s tabulating firm actually know who the winners are.

First Best Picture Winner Oscar Screw Up

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: Al Pacino speaks onstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California.

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While 2024’s Oscar ceremony had Al Pacino skip through the nominees for Best Picture and just make the announcement that Oppenheimer was the winner, that gaffe was nothing compared to the 89th Academy Awards best picture blunder. The 2017 Oscars had PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that handles the winners and ballots take accountability for the error, as the wrong envelope was handed to Warren Beatty to read. He announced La La Land as the Best Picture winner when it really was Moonlight. “I want to tell you what happened,” Beatty said, “I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye and at [the audience]. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

Selling of Oscar Awards Was Prohibited

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 12: In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Oscar statuettes are seen backstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.

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The second decade of the Academy Awards (1938-1947) saw some interesting changes, including a rule in 1941 that prohibited an Academy Award winner from selling or disposing of their award without first offering to sell it back to the Academy for $10.

More Than 12 Months Used for Eligibility

The sixth year of the Academy Awards (1932-33) was the first and only time the Academy allowed more than a 12-month span as the awards eligibility period. Instead, the 1932-33 awards covered 17 months from Aug. 1, 1932 to Dec. 31, 1933. The seventh year of the Academy Awards was the first time the eligibility period was based on a calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31) rather than seasonal.

The Public Was Allowed to Attend

41ST ACADEMY AWARDS - Behind-the-Scenes Coverage - Airdate: April 14, 1969.

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In the Oscar’s 19th year (1946) the venue of the ceremony changed from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to the Shrine Auditorium, which opened up additional seating. For the first time the public was allowed to buy tickets and sit side-by-side with their favorite celebrities.

First Person to Decline an Oscar Award

SISTER KENNY, writer/producer/director Dudley Nichols, on set, 1946.

Everett Collection

The eighth year of the Oscars (1935) saw writer Dudley Nichols decline an Academy Award. According to Robert Osborne’s 85 Years of Oscar: “He took the stand, he said, not to demean the honor, but because of antagonism between several industry guilds and the Academy over union matters, which resulted in many members boycotting the 1935 awards party.”

Music Was First Honored

Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell took the 2024 Oscar for Best Original Song for “What Was I Made For?, the song from Barbie. They are the youngest winners to receive more than one award, having won for Best Original Song in 2022 for the James Bond film and song “No Time to Die.”  Music was first honored at the seventh Academy Awards in 1934.

First Streaming Movie to Win

CODA starring Emilia Jones was the first movie to win a Best Picture Oscar in 2021 from a streaming service. The film debuted on the streaming service Apple TV+.

Most Oscar Wins Ever

Film maker Walt Disney holding his four Oscars, for four different films, at the 26th Academy Awards, March 25th 1954.

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Walt Disney actually holds the most Oscars still to this day with 26 (22 competitive awards and four honorary awards). While Meryl Streep, who has won three Oscars and received 21 nominations, often gets the butt of many jokes on her impressive nomination streak, Katharine Hepburn actually has her beat with four wins. On the actor side Daniel Day-Lewis is the only actor with three wins for Best Actor, but he shares the three Oscar wins among the males with Walter Brennan (all Best Supporting) and Jack Nicholson (2 Best Actor and 1 Best Supporting).

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March 2022

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