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Hollywood's most coveted award is made in Chicago

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Every single Oscar handed out for over three decades has been made at the R.S. Owens plant on the northwest side of Chicago. (WLS)

Every Oscar statuette presented on Feb. 22 started out right here in Chicago. Nearly 3,000 have been presented since the golden guy became a Hollywood player in 1929.

Every single Oscar handed out for over three decades has been made at the R.S. Owens plant on the northwest side of Chicago.

About 60 statuettes are produced annually and the supply is ready a year in advance. No one knows how many will be needed, because some categories have lots of winners.

Each one stands 13 1/2 inches tall and weighs 8 1/2 lbs. Legend has it an Academy librarian, in the award's early days, said the figure looked like her uncle Oscar and the name stuck.

Britannium, a zinc-like alloy, is used to produce each statuette, and the process takes about eight hours.

There's a complex mold and casting process, with ladles of hot liquid settling into Oscar's curves and physique. Then it's onto the painstaking buffing and polishing, more dipping and glimmer. Each statuette has a serial number engraved assigned to the winner.

Then comes the plating, starting with copper, then nickel, fine silver and then topped off with a heavy coating of 24 karat gold.

"We take so much care to make sure that every Oscar is exactly the same," says Mark Avenson, vice president of marketing for R.S. Owens. "Weighs the same, looks the same, has the same amount of gold on it every year."

What happens if the statues get broken?

Frank Sinatra's came back, we had to refurbish that," says Louise White, who makes the statuettes. "Gene Kelly's came back when his house burned down because the Oscar burned in the fire, so we had to fix that."

The base and Oscar are attached with a stud that goes through the entire figure. That base depicts a film reel with five spokes, representing actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians.

This team has bragging rights for every Oscar presented.

"I just watch the stars and the work I do," says Manuel Nunez. "I'm excited, yes."

"I don't watch a lot of movies, no," says Barbara Cassata, "but I like to watch the Oscars."

"I always watch to the bitter end," Avenson says. "I want to see every Oscar get awarded."

Related Topics:
entertainmentOscarsaward showsmoviesChicago - Far Northwest Side
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