There was an almost wistful air surrounding the Academy's traditional Oscar ballot-mailing ceremony, which took place Wednesday at the group's Beverly Hills headquarters. A relatively quiet and somber affair, the gathering of media and Academy staff is the org 's way of marking the beginning of Oscar voting, but this year is a little different: it's probably the last time that voters will receive paper ballots to choose Oscar winners in 24 categories of merit.
News crews followed a tiered cart into the reception area, where reps from PricewaterhouseCoopers — which has been the Academy's Oscar accounting firm for 78 years — carefully placed mail bins on a red-draped table. Six people then proceeded to count the 5,783 voting ballots for the 84th Academy Awards.
Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, president Tom Sherak, COO Ric Robertson and head of marketing Christina Kounelias, as well as PwC's Oscar guys, Rick Rosas and Brad Oltmanns, were all on hand for the event.
"They're looking for my ballot so they can save the stamp," Sherak joked, as the counters continued their work.
Sherak also said that he has just seen what shape the 84th ceremony will take, pointing out that having the cast of "Bridesmaids" as presenters are a clear indication of what viewers can expect.
"It says something about the show. It's going to be written smart and funny. Get ready," he said.
Though the old-school ballot-counting ceremony felt like the end of an era, PwC's Rosas said that his firm's fundamental role in the process will remain the same. The outside election-consulting company Everyone Counts that the Academy hired last month will create the software for electronic voting, but PwC will implement it.
"We might be collecting ballots electronically, but we're still in charge of oversight and security," Rosas explained, adding that after this year's ceremony, he will be focused on the new system. "February 27, it becomes my No. 1 concern."
Once the counting was completed, the ballots were whisked into a mail truck, off to Academy voters around the world.