On Sunday, "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave" tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild Awards. That stirred specualtion that such a scenario could play out at the Oscars as well, since both kudos use the same preferential system to tally votes.
However, on Wednesday, the motion picture academy confirmed to our pal Steve Pond (The Wrap) that should two nominees end up with the same number of ballots -- as per the complicated system of allocation explained here -- the accountants will turn their attention to the total of first place votes for each of these. Should they score the same here as well, then focus would shift to the total of second place votes and so on until one film was the clear winner.
As the PGA does not have a rule for breaking ties, it had to give its top prize to both pictures. That meant that each was ranked higher than the other on an equal number of ballots.
This decision by the academy makes it even more important for Oscar voters to be aware that where they rank a film matters. Unless a film is ranked first on 50% plus one of all ballots, the accountants will need to begin reallocating the nominee with the fewest first place votes to the next nominee still in play until this threshold is reached.
One wonders why there can be a tie in any of the other 23 categories -- the winners of which are determined by popular vote -- but not Best Picture.
There have been five instances when two nominees received the exact same number of votes. [In 1932, Wallace Beery ("The Champ") got one more vote than Frederic March ("Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde") but the rules dictated a tie declared if the result was within three votes.)
1949: Best Documentary Short
"A Chance to Live" and "So Much for So Little"
1968: Best Actress
Katharine Hepburn ("The Lion in Winter") and Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl")
1986: Best Documentary Feature
"Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got" and "Down and Out in America"
1995: Best Live Action Short
"Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life" and "Trevor"
2012: Sound Editing
"Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty"
What do you think is going to win Best Picture?