The envelope, please: The history of the Oscars and embargoes
Anyone who has watched the Oscars, which will be awarded tonight, is familiar with the phrase “the envelope, please.” But things weren’t always kept secret, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reminds us. For the first Academy Awards, in 1929:
There was little suspense when the awards were presented that night: the recipients had already been announced three months earlier. That all changed the following year, however, when the Academy decided to keep the results secret until the ceremony but gave a list in advance to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the Awards. This policy continued until 1940 when, much to the Academy’s consternation, the Los Angeles Times broke the embargo and published the names of the winners in its evening edition – which was readily available to guests arriving for the ceremony. That prompted the Academy in 1941 to adopt the sealed-envelope system still in use today.
By 1941, of course, scientific embargoes weren’t uncommon.