What is popularly called the Tony Award but is formally the "Antoinette Perry Award" is an annual American award celebrating achievements in theater, including musical theater. Awarded by a panel of approximately 700 judges from various areas of the industry, it is generally regarded as the theatre's closest equivalent to the Oscars. While the award was founded in 1947, it was at the third awards ceremony in 1949 that the first actual Tony medallion was given to award winners.
The award ceremony is broadcast on television, and includes songs from the nominated musicals.
Winning a Tony award in a major category--best new play, best new musical, best play revival, best musical revival, or best actor or actress--can dramatically increase a show's ticket sales. A shortlist for the award is published several weeks before the award ceremony; between then and the announcement of the winners, plays advertise how many Tonys they have been nominated for.
The awards are named after Antoinette Perry, a founder of the American Theater Wing.
Eligibility for the awards is restricted to shows playing on Broadway during the season in question. (Having closed does not make a show ineligible, though the voters generally favor shows that are still running when the awards are given.) For the purposes of the award, a "new" play or musical is one that has not previously been produced on Broadway. Shows transferred from Off-Broadway or London are eligible as new; so are productions based closely on movies.
In 2003, awards were given in the following categories: