Votes being returned on schedule

Well, at least one aspect of the current awards season is normal.

Despite the accelerated Oscar schedule, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Monday announced that the number of nomination ballots it received this year “was consistent with the returns in other recent years.”

About 80% of the org’s eligible voters normally participate in the nominating phase.

The ballots have been tallied for more than 60 years by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC partner Greg Garrison, who oversees the Academy tabulations, reported that the best picture returns and the ballots for individual branches were “running normally across the board.”

Academy officials acknowledged that they were “pleased, bordering on relieved” by PwC’s report.

“I won’t deny that we were all holding our breath,” AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis said. “The accelerated schedule in itself was a new wrinkle, and on top of that we had mail delays in Europe and nagging concerns that our East Coast members hadn’t absorbed the new schedule. It’s reassuring to hear that in this first and potentially trickiest part of the voting, we’re conducting business as usual.”

In past years, the Academy began mailing ballots around Jan. 10 and asked for their return by the end of January. Some studios and contenders were concerned there would be a low turnout if voters were not attuned to the earlier deadline — which was Saturday at 5 p.m.

The earlier Oscarcast (Feb. 29) necessitated changes in the Academy; Awards calendar, including all voting deadlines — such as films being voted in the branch categories as well as pics being weighed by special panels.

But the stability of the voting returns is a relief: In a brief and frantic awards season, the Academy and its voters have had to contend with the Screener Wars, piracy of various screener titles and ballots mailed to Europe that were temporarily lost.

PwC reps will now tally the results for the 20-odd awards categories and present them to the Acad on the night prior to the Oscar nominations announcement at dawn on Jan. 27.

The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 29 at the Kodak Theater at Hollywood & Highland.

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