In one of the more relaxed traditions of awards season, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its 31st annual Nominees Luncheon on Monday at the Beverly Hilton.

The democratic seating arrangement gives first-time nominees the chance to rub elbows with AMPAS governors and Oscar veterans.

“This is the last time you will be rooting for each other,” Academy prexy Tom Sherak joked in his opening remarks. “In this room, all the nominees are equal (and) all of the films are equal.”

Show producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer, who said this year’s ceremony will recall the look of a classic movie house, made the traditional appeal to potential winners to deliver short, memorable acceptance speeches.

Academy governor Tom Hanks reinforced the plea with advice via tape, pointing out that the audience wants to see the joy in winners’ eyes. “If you are staring at a piece of paper, all the audience can see is your bald spot,” Hanks said.

The 84th Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theater and televised live by ABC.