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How could the best picture mix-up happen? Duplicate cards await on both sides of the stage

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 27, 2017

Jordan Horowitz, producer of "La La Land," shows the envelope revealing "Moonlight" as the true winner of best picture at the Oscars on Sunday, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Presenter Warren Beatty and host Jimmy Kimmel look on from right. (Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP)
Jordan Horowitz, producer of "La La Land," shows the envelope revealing "Moonlight" as the true winner of best picture at the Oscars on Sunday, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Presenter Warren Beatty and host Jimmy Kimmel look on from right. (Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP)

After the Oscars’ big best picture mix-up Sunday, Emma Stone said backstage that she was holding her lead actress card when “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as best picture.

So how could Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have been looking at that very same card, as the actor explained to the audience?

Turns out that for each category, there are two cards waiting in the wings, one on each side, as explained in a 2016 Los Angeles Times story by Valli Herman:

“In an undisclosed location, the partners tabulate votes and stuff two sets of winning envelopes, partly as another security measure and also to aid the show’s flow. Stationed with their signature briefcases on opposite sides of the stage, either (PricewaterhouseCoopers partners, Brian) Cullinan or (Martha) Ruiz can dispense envelopes to presenters. At the end of the evening, each accountant will have given out about half of the envelopes.

“And the third set? ‘There is no third “set” sitting somewhere that has the winning cards in the winning envelopes,’ Cullinan said. However, the remaining, unstuffed envelopes and nominee cards are shipped to a second secret location, just in case some disaster prevents access to the completed sets. After the ceremony, unused cards and envelopes are destroyed by an industrial document-destruction company.“

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