Made in Chicagoland: R.S. Owens and the Oscars

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Friday, February 20, 2015
Made in Chicagoland: R.S. Owens
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Dozens of Oscars are manufactured in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards, right here in Chicagoland.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Every Oscar takes eight hours to make. Dozens are manufactured in the weeks leading up to the night of the Academy Awards.

Now that this year's batch has been shipped off to Hollywood, the 100 employees of R.S. Owens get to watch the fruits of their labor. The hardware handed to Hollywood's best, all made right here in Chicagoland.

But for all their glamour and prestige, the statues are manufactured in a very unflashy factory on Chicago's North Side.

"This is Britannia, the raw material that is used to make the Oscar," said Mark Avenson, Vice President of Marketing for R.S. Owens.

The little blocks of metal are heated up to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit and poured into the six-piece mold in the hand casting room. Moments later, Oscar is born, baptized and blow-dried.

"The next step after we cast the product is to cut off the tail or gate. It's the little tail that comes out from behind the statue that has to be removed," Avenson said.

The Oscar is then buffed and polished.

"So what we do is we take an Oscar and kind of gradually, for a lack of a better word, wear it down until it's perfectly smooth. We take a very rough statue into a very shiny polished state," Avenson said.

Then it's plated with copper, nickel, fine silver and finally, in 24 carat gold.

From plating, the Oscar is brought to engraving. Each statue is given its own serial number with a diamond-tipped engraver, to keep track of every Oscar that's ever made.

"This is the final stop. This is where we put the whole Oscar together. Basically what it is, is taking the black nickel base and the weights to make it 8.5 lbs. and put together with the statue that we just saw made," Avenson said.

Only the best 75 Oscars make the flight to Hollywood. They are kept in a secret location until the Sunday night awards show.

R.S. Owens workers have no clue who will receive the Oscars they're making, so individual plates are made for every nominee. The Academy puts the plate on the Oscar once the winner is announced.

R.S. Owens also makes the Emmy and Grammy awards.