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Oscars Debut New Rules To Avoid Another Envelope Mix-Up

Because there are no second takes, re-shoots or do-overs at the Oscars, PwC, the accounting firm that tabulates votes for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has devised new rules for how winners are announced at this year's awards.

The Associated Press reportedMonday that the firm is making a series of moves that organizers hope will forever prevent the colossal mix-up that happened last year, when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly delivered the night's biggest award — Best Picture — to La La Landover Moonlight.

"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," Tim Ryan, a senior partner with the accounting firm, told The Associated Press. "And where we got it wrong was on the handing over of the envelope."

The embarrassing error made Oscar history and prompted the accounting firm to come up with six new protocols and safeguards to prevent it from happening again.

First, presenters have to check with stage managers that they have the right envelope in hand before heading out on stage. This alone would have prevented last year's fiasco. Beatty and Dunaway were given the wrong envelope. Rather than holding the Best Picture envelope, they carried a copy of the Best Actress card, which had gone to La La Land's Emma Stone in the previous category.

A third accounting partner who will sit with Oscar producers in the show's control room has been added to the event. That person's job is to memorize the name of every award winner in the event of another erroneous announcement. That will cut down on the time it takes to fix any possible confusion. (It was several chaotic minutes before the mishap last year was resolved.) Additionally, last year's accountants, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, have been replaced by Kimberly Bourdon and Rick Rosas, who had handled the Oscars envelopes for 14 years.

All three PwC accountants will attend the Oscars rehearsals to practice what to do in case anything goes wrong this year.

And, in what is perhaps the most significant change — one the academy instituted after the event last year — PwC partners won't be allowed to use cellphones or any social media during the show.

Just before handing Beatty the wrong envelope, Cullinan, tweeted out a picture of Stone, holding her golden statue backstage.

"Our singular focus will be on the show and delivering the correct envelopes," Ryan said to the Associated Press.

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning. The awards ceremony will be broadcast March 4.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
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