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Oscars introducing strict new envelope rules to prevent another major mix-up

Last year, it was mistakenly announced that La La Land was the winner of Best Picture, instead of Moonlight.

Jordan Horowitz, producer of La La Land, left, shows the envelope revealing
Jordan Horowitz, producer of La La Land, left, shows the envelope revealing "Moonlight" as the true winner of Best Picture
Image: Chris Pizzello

ORGANISERS FOR THE Academy Awards are planning to introduce new rules for this year’s ceremony, in a bid to prevent another mix-up like last year’s Best Picture mistake happening again.

Last year, it was announced that La La Land was the winner of Best Picture. However, it soon emerged that Moonlight was, in fact, the real winner of the award.

Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong envelope by the PwC group in charge of looking after the names of the award winners.

In light of the incident, the PwC have met with the academy many times to come up with new protocols and safeguards to prevent such a blunder in the future.

PwC US chairperson Tim Ryan has revealed six new reforms to The Associated Press. They include a new process in which the celebrity presenter will confirm they have the correct envelope before stepping onstage, PwC partners attending rehearsals, as well as measures to quickly correct any mistake.

“One of the most disappointing things to me was all the great work that had been done, not only last year but over the last 83 years, around accuracy, confidentiality integrity of that process,” he said.

“And where we got it wrong was on the handing over of the envelope.”

Ryan said Oscar voting procedures and the tabulation of nominees and winners won’t change. Instead, reforms focus on envelope rituals.

Ryan said he will be personally involved with Oscar operations this year as PwC’s US chairman and senior partner.

Other changes

A number of other changes are being made this year, including the addition of a third balloting partner, who will sit with Oscar producers in the show’s control room.

Just like the balloting partners stationed on either side of the Dolby Theatre stage, this person will have a complete set of winners’ envelopes and commit the winners to memory.

“Think of it as a safety control,” Ryan said.

The two partners who worked on last year’s Academy Awards have been replaced, though Ryan confirms that both still work for PwC. The new stage-side partners overseeing the envelopes will include Rick Rosas, who previously worked in that post for 14 years, and colleague Kimberly Bourdon from the company’s Los Angeles office.

The final change is one the academy immediately instituted last year: PwC partners are prohibited from using cell phones or social media during the show.

“Our singular focus will be on the show and delivering the correct envelopes,” Ryan said.

Besides tabulating votes for Oscar nominees and winners, PwC handles much of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ accounting, including audits and taxes.

Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced today. Winners will be revealed at the ceremony on 4 March.

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