Visitors get peek at Oscar statuettes

Those viewing the Oscars were excited.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Lori Anne Summers would like to thank the Academy -- for letting her view an Oscar statuette in person.
For the first time, 50 Oscars went on display to the public before being presented on stage to the winners.
"They're just beautiful, spectacular. You look at them and it's just breathtaking," said Summers, a devoted watcher of the Academy Awards, said recently as she ogled them at Museum of Science and Industry. "I want to touch them."
Not a good idea.
Almost four years after 55 Oscars were stolen from a loading dock in Los Angeles, the gold statuettes are protected behind alarm-rigged, inch-thick glass with at least one security guard constantly posted nearby.
"They're worth millions to whoever receives them," said Noreen Prohaska of R.S. Owens, the Chicago company that has manufactured the statues for 21 years. "That's all I can say about the cost of them."
The Oscars -- 13.5 inches tall and 8.5 pounds -- are in five display cases behind a red carpet and velvet ropes. Their pedestal is blank; R.S. Owens will manufacture personalized plates after the winners are announced at this year's ceremony Feb. 29.
How are they made?
Five accompanying exhibit cases detail how the statuettes are made. An alloy similar to pewter is placed in a mold to create the famous design of a knight holding a crusader's sword and standing on a film reel. Then the statue is plated in layers of nickel, copper, silver and 24-karat gold -- before being heavily coated in a clear lacquer and engraved with an identification number.
Museum visitor Bonnie Jordan said she watches the Academy Awards every year. She spent several minutes gazing at the little gold men.
"I don't plan on pursuing an acting career at this stage of my life," she said, laughing. "So this is the only time that I'm ever going to get to see them -- unless my children become actors and actresses."
Last year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards, a collection of 75 Oscars belonging to past winners was exhibited in Hollywood, said Dawn Newell, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But this is the first time the Oscars that have yet to be awarded have been put on public display, she said.
The decision to do so in Chicago came from the fact that the statues are made here, as well as being a tie-in to the museum's upcoming exhibit, "Action! An Adventure in Moviemaking," opening May 28.
Flown to LA
The Oscar display will end Feb. 18. The next day, the statuettes will be flown to Los Angeles.
"It's amazing. I've seen every Oscar statue that they're going to give out on Oscar night," said Signe Nordstrom, who added that she sometimes watches the Oscars in the middle of the night in her home country of Sweden.
As museum visitors oohed and ahhed over the gleaming Oscar statuettes, many struggled to explain their appeal.
Prohaska said she had an idea.
"It's been around 76 years. Oscar is an old man, who never ages. It exudes excellence," she said. "We all strive for our achievements, and Oscar is one of the highest that people can achieve."
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