Oscars: What Happens to the Cast Ballots

Tuesday, March 2
Ballots must be submitted to the L.A. branch of the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers no later than 5 p.m.

Wednesday March 3
All ballots are opened by four accountants overseen by two "balloting leaders" in a room with one door and no windows. It takes three days to tabulate the 24 different Oscar categories. The ballots are counted by hand, with each accountant responsible for one fourth of the total. They are forbidden from sharing information, and only the balloting leaders tabulate the final results, which are then locked in a safe. They will remain the only two people in the world who know the names of the winners before they are announced.

Saturday, March 6
Meanwhile, an assistant has typed the names of all the nominees in each category on two sets of notecards—one for each balloting leader. Each man (there has been only one woman during PricewaterhouseCoopers's 76-year tenure) sorts through his stack, picking out the winners and placing them in envelopes. The envelopes (and discards) are then locked in a safe.

Day of the Show – Sunday, March 7
2 p.m. PST Each accountant puts his stack of envelopes into an identical black briefcase. The two men travel in separate unmarked cars that take different routes to the Kodak Theatre—both with an off-duty member of the LAPD in tow. They arrive two and a half hours before the ceremony and walk the red carpet.

5:30 p.m. Showtime! The two accountants are by now stationed at opposite ends of the stage. Presenters receive their envelopes from either one man or the other, depending on which side they take the stage from. Both men are prohibited from leaving their posts during the telecast and have memorized all the winners—if a wrong name is announced, they must immediately approach the podium and correct the presenter.

9 p.m. Following the ceremony, the two accountants (along with their dates) attend the Governors Ball at the adjacent Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. How can you spot them? They're the only two carrying briefcases.

Research by Ramin Setoodeh