Fri | Sep 22, 2017

The Oscar Envelopes-How they work

Published:Monday | February 27, 2017 | 2:29 PM
Jordan Horowitz holds up the envelope that reveals "Moonlight" as the true winner of the award for best picture at the Oscars. -AP
Warren Beatty, center, discusses the results of the award for best picture with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences officials and producers from "La La Land". -AP
Warren Beatty exits the stage after announcing the award for best picture. -AP
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LOS ANGELES (AP)

By now everyone has had their full and then some talking about the final moments of last night's Academy Awards that will go down in history.

In Photo: Jordan Horowitz holds up the envelope that reveals "Moonlight" as the true winner of the award for best picture at the Oscars. -AP

The musical "La La Land" was erroneously announced as the winner of the best picture award before the error was caught and corrected with the statue going to "Moonlight". Everyone is wondering how this happened. Here is how the envelopes are handled before the presenters announce the winners. 

— The consulting firm PwC, formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, tabulates the winners based on ballots cast by the academy's 6,687 voting members. Unlike the nominations, which rely on a branch-specific, preferential-voting system, winners are chosen by popular vote.

— Two accountants are tasked with bringing the final results, inside sealed envelopes, to the Oscars ceremony. They are the people carrying briefcases on the red carpet, flanked by police protection. Each briefcase contains an identical set of envelopes for the show's 24 categories. The accountants also memorise the winners.

— The two accountants are ostensibly the only people who know the winners before they are announced live on TV.

— During the telecast, the two briefcase-toting accountants are stationed in the Dolby Theatre wings, one stage left and one stage right.

In photo: Warren Beatty, center, discusses the results of the award for best picture with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences officials and producers from "La La Land". -AP

— Most presenters enter stage right. They come backstage a few minutes ahead of time, and the accountant hands them their category's envelope just before they walk onstage. The category is indicated both on the envelope and on the card with the winner's name. The sealed envelope with the winner's name inside is opened live onstage.

— On Sunday, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway entered stage right, where PwC representative Brian Cullinan handed them the errant envelope.

— The previous award, best actress, was presented by Leonardo DiCaprio, who entered stage left. PwC representative Martha Ruiz handed him the envelope for the correct category.

— A duplicate, unopened envelope for best actress remained stage right, and apparently ended up in the hands of Beatty and Dunaway.