| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Voting for the Oscars is going electronic for the first time in a move that will speed up the process and could give an boost to younger, edgier movies.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Tuesday that a new online voting system will be used for the first time in its 85-year history for the Oscars that will be handed out in February 2013.
In a transition process, the academy's 6,000 members also will be able to use traditional paper ballots to nominate and select the best actors, films, directors, screen writers and other winners of 2012.
In the past, Oscar ballots have been mailed around the world to Academy members - directors, actors, screenwriters, producers and other leading film industry figures - and the results have been tabulated by hand by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm.
Industry watchers said the move to electronic voting could be difficult for some academy members, who have a reputation for being older and more conservative by nature.
"People love to conjure up the academy as being made up of 90-year-old geezers who've never opened an email before and think the Internet is a passing fad," said Tom O'Neil of awards website Goldderby.com.
"It could end up having a profound effect if there is a drop off on the older voters who are frustrated by the new system and pass on voting, leaving the younger voters to pick more hip choices," O'Neil said.
The academy said on Tuesday it was introducing online voting after extensive consultations with its members. Members also will be able to get help casting their ballots at electronic stations set up at academy-affiliated properties in London, New York and Los Angeles and through a 24-hour telephone help line.
The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg said he believed that part of the academy's rationale also was to consolidate the movie awards season, which begins in November and ends in February with the Oscars ceremony.
"They're not thrilled that the awards campaigns have grown to be so big and expensive that it actually does sway voters," Feinberg said.
"So many awards shows happen before the Oscars. Because the season is so long, there is a sense that it takes away some of the luster from the Oscars."
The academy announced it has moved its Oscar nominations date to January 10 - five days earlier than previously scheduled - in order to give the public and its members more time to see the nominated movies before the annual ceremony in Hollywood.
Tuesday's online voting announcement followed the Academy giving the go-ahead last year to make copies of films vying for the Oscars available to members through online streaming, rather than on traditional DVDs.
(Editing by Bill Trott)