|Formation||January 1909(as New York Board of Motion Picture Censorship)|
The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures is an organization in the United States dedicated to discussing and selecting what its members regard as the best film works of each year.[not verified in body]
On December 24, 1908 New York City Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. revoked all moving-picture exhibition licenses in the city pending inspection of the premises. Given the inadequacy of fire exits and instances of rear exits blocked, the Mayor considered the highly flammable celluloid film presented an unacceptable fire hazard. He stated that based upon complaints by a number of the city's rectors and pastors and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, that upon re-issuance, the licensees were prohibited from operating on Sunday. He further indicated his intention to revoke the license of any motion picture show "...on evidence that pictures have been exhibited by the licensees which tend to degrade or injure the morals of the community." The motion picture exhibitors blamed the mayor's actions on pressure from owners of burlesque and vaudeville theaters threatened by competition and were able to obtain an injunction.
In 1909, Charles Sprague Smith and others formed the New York Board of Motion Picture Censorship to make recommendations to the Mayor's office concerning controversial films. It quickly became known as the National Board of Motion Picture Censorship. In an effort to avoid government censorship of films, the National Board became the unofficial clearinghouse for new movies. The Board's stated purpose was to endorse films of merit and champion the new "art of the people", which was transforming America's cultural life. In March 1916 the Board changed its name to the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures to avoid the controversial word "censorship".
Producers submitted their films to the board before making release prints; they agreed to cut any footage that the board found objectionable, up to and including destroying the entire film. Thousands of films carried the legend "Passed by the National Board of Review" in their main titles from 1916 into the 1950s, when the board began to lose financial support, partly due to the NBR being overpowered by the MPAA in regards to film censorship.
In 1930, the NBR was the first group to choose the 10 best English-language movies of the year and the best foreign films, and is still the first critical body to announce its annual awards. In 1936 executive secretary Wilton A. Barrett explained the Board's workings:
The National Board is opposed to legal censorship regarding all forms of the motion picture...It believes that far more constructive ...is the method of selecting the better pictures, publishing descriptive, classified lists of them and building up audiences and support for them through the work of community groups...
The NBR has also gained international acclaim for its publications: Film Program (1917–1926); Exceptional Photoplays (1920–1925); Photoplay Guide to Better Movies (1924–1926); National Board of Review Magazine (1926–1942); New Movies (1942–1949); and Films in Review, which published its first issue in 1950.
The board's official magazine had existed in several forms and different names since its inception. In 1950, the magazine changed its name from Screen Magazine and launched the first issue as Films in Review (ISSN 0015-1688) on February 1, 1950. Films in Review ceased print publishing in 1997 and became an online publication only at Filmsinreview.com. It is the oldest film review and commentary publication in the United States.
To determine the NBR's annual awards, ballots are sent in by over 100 members of group of film enthusiasts, academics and filmmakers in the New York metropolitan area, and subsequently tabulated by a certified public accountancy firm in order to decide the winners. In addition, the Awards Committee determines the special achievement awards presented at the annual gala in January.
The organization also works to foster commentary on all aspects of film production by underwriting educational film programs and seminars for film students. In 2017, the NBR provided grants to Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Ghetto Film School, and Educational Video Center. The organization also awarded grants to 13 student filmmakers as part of its annual student grant program.
Note: Until 1945, there were only awards for Best Picture and intermittent awards for Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film.