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U.S. Census Bureau History: The Academy Awards

Honorary Academy Award given to Bob Hope in 1953
Bob Hope was a frequent Academy Awards ceremony host. He received
five honorary Oscars, including this 1953 award for his "contribution to
the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and
his devotion to the American premise."

On February 28, 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Link to a non-federal Web site hosts the 88th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA. During the televised ceremony, the Academy will award Oscar trophies in 24 categories, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, and Best Original Score.

The first Academy Awards ceremony—lasting just 15 minutes—was held on May 16, 1929. Fifteen Oscar trophies honored the motion picture industry's actors, actresses, directors, and others for work in 1927–1928. In the years that followed, the addition of new categories honored actors and actresses in supporting roles (1936), visual effects (1939), costume design (1948), sound editing (1963), and animated feature (2001).

Today the Academy Awards have evolved into a much anticipated event featuring some of the world's most beloved figures from the entertainment and fashion industries. You can learn more about the ceremony and the industries it honors using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies. For example:

  • Louis B. Mayer, of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927 to mediate labor disputes and improve the movie industry's image. The Academy's 36 founding members included actors Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, and Mary Pickford; directors Cecil B. DeMille and Raoul Walsh; producers Harry and Jack Warner; and writers Bess Meredyth and Carey Wilson.
  • In 1929—the year of the first Academy Awards ceremony—80 million tickets to hit films like Rio Rita starring Bebe Daniels, The Desert Song featuring music by Irving Berlin, and The Cocoanuts starring Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo Marx earned $720 million. In 2015, Movie Web site Box Office Mojo Link to a non-federal Web site reported that domestic audiences purchased 1.33 billion movie tickets for a total annual box office gross of approximately $11.1 billion.
  • Soon after the founding of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, data from the 1930 Census showed that 93,804 people listed their occupation as actor, dancer, showmen, or athlete. In 1940, the number grew to 97,361. In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 69,400 people worked as actors, 20,100 were dancers or choreographers, 58,900 were film and video editors and camera operators, 64,400 were multimedia artists and animators, and 122,600 worked as producers and directors.
  • The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) first televised the Academy Awards ceremony in 1953. In that year, 20.4 million American households owned a television. Since 1978, 98 percent or more of all American households reported owning at least one television.
  • The 1959 film Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, won a single-film record 11 Academy Awards. Since then, two movies—Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)—have tied that record.
  • Walt Disney holds the men's record for most Academy Award wins with 22. Costume designer Edith Head holds the women's record with 8. Katherine Hepburn won the most Academy Awards for acting for her roles in Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). John Ford is the most awarded director, winning for The Informer (1934), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1940), and The Quiet Man (1951).
  • For many Americans, movies are not complete without popcorn. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the census of agriculture found that 1,040 farms produced more than 785.7 million pounds of popcorn in 2012. Approximately 45 percent of the nation's popcorn is grown in Nebraska, followed by Indiana (19 percent), Illinois (12 percent), Ohio (11 percent), South Dakota (3.5 percent), and Iowa (2.4 percent).

Hollywood Sign

Real estate developer H.J. Whitley erected the Hollywood Sign in 1923. Sited on Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains, the sign—originally reading "Hollywoodland"—advertised
Whitley's housing development in the Hollywood district of Los, Angeles, CA. Today, the sign is an iconic landmark symbolizing the state's entertainment industry.



Historic census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, not the U.S. Census Bureau.



Visit the National Archives Web site to access 1940 Census records—http://1940census.archives.gov.

Decennial census records are confidential for 72 years to protect respondents' privacy.

Records from the 1950 to 2010 censuses can only be obtained by the person named in the record or their heir after submitting form BC-600 or BC-600sp (Spanish).

Online subscription services are available to access the 1790–1940 census records. Many public libraries provide access to these services free of charge to their patrons.

Contact your local library to inquire if it has subscribed to one of these services.



This Month in Census History

Former superintendent of the census J.D.B. DeBow died at his brother's Elizabeth, NJ, home on February 27, 1867.

Portrait of J.D.B. DeBow

Between 1853 and 1855, DeBow published the 1850 Census data and the Statistical View of the United States. His summary of the 1850 data in the Compendium contained the first map published by the Census Bureau. He also urged Congress to create a permanent census office and shunned hiring inexperienced workers based on political patronage.

Did You Know?

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Motion Picture and Sound Recording Establishments (NAICS 512), increased from 23,891 to 25,018, however, the number of people employed by the industry declined 9.3 percent to 304,497.

California led the nation in motion picture and sound recording employment with 113,899, followed by New York (32,463) and Texas (17,247).

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: January 27, 2016