Oscar Ballots Due Tuesday: Stop Campaigning, Start Counting

The deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday … and then a feverish awards season turns into a waiting game

Almost six months after "The King's speech" screened in Telluride and Toronto and "The Social Network" was first unveiled to critics, more than seven months after "Toy Story 3" topped the $400 million mark at the boxoffice, and a year after "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right" debuted at Sundance, it's time to stop campaigning and start counting.

Oscar ballots are due at PricewaterhouseCoopers' downtown Los Angeles offices by five p.m. on Tuesday. And that that point, a feverish, competitive awards season turns into a waiting game for everybody except a half-dozen PwC staffers.

The accounting firm and the Academy don't release figures about how many last-minute ballots they receive – but Rick Rosas, one of the partners who oversee the process, has said that the number is substantial. (A public relations firm once put an observer in the lobby for the final day of voting, and counted about 500 ballots hand-delivered, expressed or FedExed that day.)

Oscar ballotWhile much of the process is secretive, beginning with the famous "undisclosed location" at which it takes place, here are the broad strokes and some details:

On Wednesday, Rosas and Brad Oltmanns supervise the process by which each Oscar ballot is torn into six separate panels, with each panel containing between one and four categories. The two partners take the Best Picture panels and do that more complicated count themselves, while the other four PwC staffers each receive one-fourth of the votes on each of the other five panels.

Ballot panelThe staffers begin with the categories at the top of each panel: Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Original Score and Sound Mixing. When they finish a category, they give their subtotals to Rosas and Oltmanns, who add everything up, determine a winner and supervise as many recounts as they deem necessary.

By the end of the day Wednesday, the two partners will know the winners in quite a few categories. By the end of Thursday, they'll know most if not all of the others. The results are locked in a safe overnight.

By Friday, envelopes are being prepared for every conceivable winner. Rosas and Oltmanns prepare two complete sets of envelopes with the correct winners, destroy the unneeded envelopes, and start memorizing the results. 

Over the weekend, Rosas likes to read all the Oscar pundits and scoff at their predictions. Oltmanns doesn’t.

On Sunday night, they go to work handing out envelopes and making sure the right names are announced.

And then it's over.