Austin Cedric Gibbons was born in Dublin to Architect Austin P. Gibbons and Veronica Fitzpatrick Simmons. He was privately tutored and studied at the Art Students League of New York. In 1911 he began working in his father's office as a junior draftsman. Art Director at Edison Studios in New Jersey from 1915, he served in the US Navy during World War I. He then joined Goldwyn Studios, and began a long career with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, when the studio was founded.
Gibbons was one of the original 36 founding members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and oversaw the design of the Academy Awards statuette in 1928, a trophy for which he himself would be nominated 39 times, winning 11.
Gibbons's set designs, particularly those in such films as Born to Dance (1936) and Rosalie (1937), heavily inspired motion picture theater architecture in the late 1930s through 1950s. The style is found very clearly in the theaters that were managed by the Skouras brothers, whose designer Carl G. Moeller used the sweeping scroll-like details in his creations. Among the more classic examples are the Loma Theater in San Diego, The Crest in Long Beach and Fresno, and the Culver Theater in Culver City, all of which are in California and some extant. The style is sometimes referred to as Art Deco and Art Moderne. The iconic Oscar statuettes that he designed, which were first awarded in 1929, are still being awarded to winners at Academy Awards ceremonies each year.
He retired in 1956 with about 1,500 films credited to him: however, his contract with MGM dictated that he receive credit as art Director for every MGM film released in the United States, even though other designers may have done the bulk of the work. Even so, his actual hands-on art direction may have been about 150 films.
On July 26, 1960, Gibbons died in Los Angeles at the age of 67. He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles.