Award ties at Oscars are very unlikely. In fact, all throughout Oscar history there have been 6 in total.
One of the first ever ties happened during the 1969 edition, for the Best Actress Award. This had been the 41st Academy Awards show, and certainly, this one shocked the audience. Ingrid Bergman, who was presenting the award, also experienced the shock when she opened the envelope.
She had gasped while announcing the winners Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Streisand. Right after announcing it was a tie, the audience applauded the stars and did not allow for Bergman’s rest of the speech to even be heard.
The 1969 tie at the Oscars between Barbara Streisand and Katharine Hepburn.
The other five awards which resulted in ties are the following:
In 1932, the 5th Award Show, the tie was between Wallace Beery from “The Champ” and Fredric March from “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Later in 1950, the 22nd edition, the award went not to two but to four people. The category was for Short Documentary, and Richerd De Rochemont and James Shute from “A Chance To Live,” and Chuck Jones and Edward Selzer from “So Much For So Little.”
On the 59th edition again, in 1987, the Documentary Feature award was shared by Brigitte Berman from “Time Is All You’ve Got” and Joseph Feury and Milton Justice in “Down Out In America.”
The tie which proceeded that took place in 1995, during the 67th Oscars in the category of Short Film, where Peter Capaldi and Ruth Kenley-Letts in Frans Kafka’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” shared the aware with Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone featuring in “Trevor.”
The last and the latest is the tie in 2013, in the 85th year of the Oscars. This was in the category of sound editing, from the movies “Zero Dark Thirty” with Paul N.J. Ottosson and “Skyfall’s” Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers.
Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg both won Best Sound Editing in 2013
But these ties were not the end of the story. In fact, the Academy rules have changed in a parallel manner as the voting has changed. While in the beginning there could be a difference of three votes for there to be a tie, from 1950 onwards the award required for an actual tie.
In order to be considered for nomination, criteria such as film length and theatrical release information must be met, and the Official Screen Credits (OSC) has to be signed by either distributors or producers. Once the nominees are decided upon, the voting ballots are mailed to voting members, who rank in an order of preference five nominees, in all the different categories.
Next in line comes PricewaterhouseCooper’s preferential voting system. This is done by taking the total number of votes received within each category, dividing it by the total number of nominees, plus one to correspond to their magic number threshold.
After the calculations, follow the nomination announcements at the beginning of the new year. All of the members of the Academy are allowed to vote for each category, but only during the final stage.
During that time, the category winners are chosen in a winner takes all fashion, and only if two or more nominees have the exact same number of votes will they be able to share the winning award.
Up to this point, there has never been any three or four-way winners, the votes have only matched in pairs of two. But the possibility is there, even up to a five-way win, since each category enlists five nominees.
The only category which could never result in a tie is Best Picture since they use the preferential voting system until the end of the voting, instead of the winner takes all. This year, the PwC accountants will be eliminating the movie which has the least No. 1 votes, making the decision-making process easier in the longer run.
At the same time, this process ensures the most democratic process and allows for the most support of the Academy to be portrayed in the award show.
The ballots are all counted by hand from the PwC accountants, leaving the Academy itself uninvolved in the process. At times of ties, there is a process of a recount in order to ensure there has indeed been a tie.
The process at the ceremony
At the final stage – the actual ceremony itself- only three of the selected PwC accountants will know the results and no one else in the world. The winners’ names get sealed in envelopes, and it makes the process all the more fun.
The 89th Oscars when Warren Beatty misplaced the envelope and announced the wrong winner.
During last year’s award presentation for Best Picture, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway had made the mistake of announcing the envelope of the Best Actress category, who happened to be Emma Stone and called the “La La Land” cast up on stage to celebrate.
The real winner was the movie Moonlight, but this mistake has brought the Academy to undertake the decision of hiring an extra PwC accountant to be sitting in the production booth during the show in cases of such mistakes.
Ties will be welcomed by the actors and actresses – better to share than to lose, isn’t it? But it certainly bring confusion to the presenters, given its rarity. This is the background reason as to why the Academy has also ruled a new protocol, to practice worst case scenarios. That is, they are made aware that ties are a possibility and they shouldn’t panic if it happens that they need to be presenting one.
The fact that two or more movies could have exactly the same amount of some-thousand votes is pretty exciting itself. And we can’t wait to see if a tie will happen at the next Oscar, and what the reactions will be.