The 81st Academy Awards ceremony was held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to honor its selection of the best films of 2008 on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony was televised in the United States on ABC and on Sky Movies in high definition in the United Kingdom. Australian performer Hugh Jackman hosted the ceremony for the first time. Academy Award-nominated producer Laurence Mark produced with Academy Award-winning writer/director Bill Condon as executive producer.
Slumdog Millionaire won eight awards, the most of the evening, including Best Picture and Best Director (Danny Boyle). The Curious Case of Benjamin Button led the nominations with a total of 13 while Slumdog Millionaire received ten, The Dark Knight and Milk received eight, and Doubt, The Reader, and Frost/Nixon each received five. The animated film WALL-E, the winner for Best Animated Feature, received six nominations, tying it with Beauty and The Beast for the most nominated animated film in Oscar history.
The Academy hoped to rework the ceremony through an entirely new production team sworn to secrecy. The ceremony received recent controversies prior to its broadcast, most notably the Academy’s alleged snubbing of films such as The Dark Knight, Doubt, and WALL·E, threats from a possible Screen Actors Guild strike, and fear of the Oscar telecast’s recent low viewership.
This was the last telecast in analog format before the U.S. digital transition takes place on June 12, 2009.