The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has had its share of troubles over the last decade, as the televised ceremony continues to struggle with ratings and viewer numbers continue to erode. Even a plan to expand the Best Picture Oscar category from 5 nominees up to 10 nominees has done little to increase viewership, a change instituted by the Academy after the controversial Best Picture snub of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed blockbuster The Dark Knight in 2009.
The length of the show – which often ends up between three-and-a-half and four hours long – has also been a yearly complaint; but even the excessive runtime of this year’s show paled in comparison into the horror story that played out on stage in late February when Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope by a representative of the Academy’s accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Dunaway, of course, errantly announced La La Land as the winner, because, as it turns out, the envelope was a duplicate containing the card for Emma Stone’s Best Actress win. After a few awkward minutes – which included some acceptance speeches by the film’s producers – PwC officials rushed the stage to correct the error, awarding Moonlight the Best Picture Oscar. With extensive news coverage and millions of video views of the incident, the Oscar blunder is arguably one of the most embarrassing moments ever to have played out on live TV.
Now that the dust has settled, the Academy made a decision Tuesday night that it was retaining PwC despite the monumental mix-up. According to THR, the news surfaced quietly through an email sent to Academy membership Wednesday by Academy President Cheryl Boone Issacs. Here is part of what she said:
“Heading into our 84th year working with PwC, a partnership that is important to the Academy, we’ve been unsparing in our assessment that the mistake made by representatives of the firm was unacceptable.”
The decision reportedly came after 6-hour-long between Boone Isaacs and the majority of the 54-person Academy Board Tuesday night. And despite the “unacceptable” error by PwC, Boone Isaacs said “the board has decided to continue working with PwC.” But in retaining the accounting firm its used since 1934, the Academy has some caveats, including that all PwC accountants who work on-stage hand over their electronic devices.
As it turns out, the cause of the “human error” mix-up was made by PwC’s Brian Cullinan, whose use of his smartphone and social media during the ceremony led to a distraction and hence, he handed over the wrong envelope.
While the Best Picture bungle was without question the biggest embarrassment the Academy has ever suffered, it will no doubt eventually yield some benefits. The publicity in the immediate aftermath, left Boone Issacs, the Academy Board and PwC representatives hanging their heads in shame. Don’t be surprised if the Academy makes light of flub somehow in the promotional run-up to next year’s show, and whoever is host will surely make jokes about it during the ceremony.
Plus, despite all the new safeguards the Academy is putting in place for PwC, you have to believe that viewers will watch in anticipation of another major mix-up. In an odd sort of way, the Motion Picture Academy may get their long-desired increase in viewership after all.