How the Winning Oscar Ballots are Counted

Oscar Awards
Oscar Awards

After three days, 5,800 ballots, 24 categories and one windowless conference room, it all comes down to two.

Two, as in people—the number of individuals who know the identity the 2011 Oscar winners, before the Academy Awards show, that is.

Rick Rosas and Brad Oltmanns are both accountants from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the firm long-trusted perennially with one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets.

“We do a number of things to ensure absolute confidentiality,” said Rosas. “But the biggest thing is limit the number of people who know the winners in each category,” he added.

The duo counts each ballot by hand, and in utter secrecy. “All of the counting is done in a secure, private, undisclosed location. No computers in the room [and] phones aren't used. We are sequestered, just counting the results,” said Oltmanns.

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Once the tabulations have been completed and the winners for each category, determined, the results are kept under lock in a vault.

Talk about pressure. Rosas and Oltmanns even attend the show separately, each carrying an identical set of 24 envelopes with the names of the Oscar winners that evening. Both men arrive at the show, accompanied by the officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

“We're absolutely safe and secure and, more importantly, the results are safe and secure for that night's show,” said Rosas.

The Academy Awards are big business, and can make or break a movie long after its box office debut. In 2004, Million Dollar Baby made just $8.3 million before its Best Picture nomination—and $92 million after winning the category.

There are some big-ticket films on the nomination list this year, as well, including Best Picture nominee Toy Story 3, which had the highest-ever opening weekend at more than $109 million. Black Swan, The King’s Speech and The Fighter are also up for the Best Picture award.