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Oscars Blunder: Biggest Mistake in Show’s History

Posted by Scott Halstead on 2/27/2017

{Photo Cred: LA Times}

Anyone in the event business can tell you about the all too familiar pit they had in their stomach last night watching Warren Beatty announce the wrong movie for the Oscar best picture win. The movie ‘La La Land’ starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gossling was announced instead of the real winner, ‘Moonlight.’ To say that details matter in those situations is an understatement. One snafu and the whole operation goes haywire. What the heck happened? The presenters were given the wrong envelope by a partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who is the accounting firm charged with counting the ballots and verifying the results. I would imagine someone did not have a very good morning over at PwC today.

The situation was corrected, but not immediately — did anyone notice Oscar producers storming the stage only after the entire cast and crew of ‘La La Land’ were already halfway through their acceptance speeches? The problem was that the two partners from PwC were the only two people in the world to know the winners in advance of the show. Not even the producers were aware a mistake had been made. The correct envelope was finally brought up on stage to reveal the true winners, but unfortunately it was too little too late. The damage was done. And with 32.9 billion viewers, social media was buzzing with discussion surrounding the snafu.

The bright side? ‘La La Land,’ the original, yet incorrect winners, were extremely gracious about handing the award over to the cast of Moonlight. When ‘La La Land’s’ producer Jordan Horowitz was advised in front of a live audience of the mishap, he explained, “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.” Can you imagine having to hand back over an award you thought you just won, one that you’ve waited your whole life to receive? That’s an exercise in humility.  

So what’s the takeaway? The learning experience from all this? Honestly, as it turns out this was a case of pure human error. And no one is perfect. I can’t imagine that the two partners from PwC didn’t eat, breathe and dream about the winners in the weeks and days leading up to the show. But it really is a true testament to the fact that details really freakin’ matter.  What the audience and consumers see and what happens behind-the-scenes matters, and could be the difference between an event’s success and failure.

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