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03.02.14

Watch the Best Oscar Openers

From Bob Hope to Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris, relive six decades of Academy Award openers.

What’s an awards ceremony for the year’s best films and performances without an opening to start things off right?  The Academy has a long history of making some very interesting first impressions.

The openings have gone from simplistic to extravagant, featuring funny monologues, dance numbers, and lots of celebrities. Who can forget James Franco dressing up as Marilyn Monroe in 2011, or Billy Crystal opening as Hannibal Lecter in 1992?  With Ellen DeGeneres hosting this year, it’s sure to be an interesting one (finally cool musical numbers!).   

With help from Dolby Lab Notes, we’ve curated some openings, old and new, that have stood out from the past six decades (one a decade) in the Academy Award Ceremony Universe.  

1953: Sixty-one years ago, on the show’s 25th anniversary, the Academy Awards ceremony was televised for the first time. Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and about 3,000 more filed into the RKO Pantages Theatre in California and the NBC International Theatre in New York City.  The stage was covered with flowers and greenery. Bob Hope hosted and it drew an estimate of 40 million viewers on television.   

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1965: The 37th awards ceremony opened with celebrities arriving on the red carpet, and screaming fans welcoming them to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in California.  Nominees were interviewed on the carpet, and the Academy Award orchestra played an overture to open the ceremony, and the stage was decorated like a grand ballroom.  The master of ceremonies was Bob Hope, yet again. It was a big year for two movie musicals, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins.

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1973: The opening of the show, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in Los Angeles, had a musical number performed by Angela Lansbury.  The song was dedicated to the movie-making process, from the make-up and costume departments to the rehearsing lyrics and dance.  It was delightful and extravagant. This was also the year that Marlon Brando boycotted the Oscars and didn’t show up to represent his film, The Godfather. Needless to say, it is one of the most well-known and beloved films of all time.

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1981: Audiences at home got to see close-ups of all the celebrities arriving on the red carpet, along with new graphics featuring the Oscars statuettes.  Johnny Carson hosted and the ceremony was originally planned for the day before, but there had been an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.  A message from Reagan was projected onto a screen at the ceremony, speaking about how the motion picture displays “how we feel” along with “common dreams and emotions.”  

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1996: Whoopi Goldberg hosted the 68th Academy Awards Ceremony, opening the show giving shout-outs to everyone, from Babe the pig to Alec Baldwin. 

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2002: At the 74th show’s opening, Whoopi descended from the heavens in feathers and struts up and down the aisles of the Kodak Theatre, “The Oscar’s New House.”  Negative campaigning is the theme of her opening monologue.  This was also the first year of the Best Animated Feature Award (which was given to Shrek). 

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2010: Neil Patrick Harris opened the Oscar ceremony in 2010 in a shiny black tux and musical performance. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin hosted the show.  What was interesting about this year’s nominees was that the ceremony featured 10 Best Picture nominees instead of five.   

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