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Warner Bros. takes home Oscar gold, sales boost for "Argo"

Argo director Ben Affleck poses with wife Jennifer Gardner arrive at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013. REU
Argo director Ben Affleck poses with wife Jennifer Gardner arrive at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013. REU

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. basked in the golden glow of coveted Best Picture Oscar for its Iran hostage drama "Argo" on Sunday, giving the Ben Affleck film a likely boost for its ticket and home entertainment sales.

Hollywood's big night often proves a boon to studios that take home Oscars, and this year the haul was spread among several major film companies.

Among the Best Picture competitors, shipwreck drama "Life of Pi" from News Corp's 20th Century Fox studio earned the most awards - four - including Best Director for Ang Lee.

"Les Miserables," made by Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures, secured a Best Supporting Actress win for Anne Hathaway and two others.

Besides grabbing the big prize, "Argo" took home two other trophies for Best Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing.

Winning a golden statuette can boost receipts by one-third or more.

Last year, ticket sales for "The Artist" gained 41 percent after it won the top film prize, according to the box office division of Hollywood.com.

Before this year's awards show, the nominees already racked up a combined $2 billion in global sales, with six of the nine contenders topping $100 million at the domestic box office.

Ticket sales for "Argo," directed by and starring Ben Affleck, surpassed the expectations of Warner Bros. executives, topping $127 million at theaters in the United States and Canada, plus $77 million in international markets. The film was released on DVD last week and should see a spike in sales.

When Lionsgate Entertainment surprisingly took home the gold for "Crash" in 2006, it had already been released in both the theatrical and DVD markets. Its DVD sales spiked after the Academy Awards, with Lionsgate selling 17,500 copies of "Crash" in one day after the Oscars, more than half the previous week's entire total of 33,000.

"Argo," a $45 million production, recounts a real-life CIA mission to rescue six American diplomats from Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, under the cover of making a fake Hollywood film called "Argo."

Fox's "Life of Pi" had scored $583 million in global ticket sales ahead of Sunday night's awards, overcoming skepticism that the book adaptation about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger would work on the big screen.

"Everyone at Fox, thank you for taking the leap with me!" Lee said onstage as he accepted his Best Director award.

The victory for "Argo" in the Best Picture category ended the winning streak for independent studio The Weinstein Company, which took home the Best Picture trophy last year for "The Artist" and the prior year for "The King's Speech."

The studio run by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein went into the night with 16 nominations, including Best Picture nominations for "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Django Unchained."

The Weinstein Company finished the evening with three awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz in "Django" and Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings."

Fox, which led rivals going into the ceremony with 31 nominations, ended the night with a total of six, four for "Pi" and two for the international distribution of "Lincoln."

Sony topped all studios with seven wins, including best foreign language film "Amour" and Best Documentary for "Searching for Sugar Man." It shared in the two wins for "Django" as the film's international distributor.

Sony's thriller, "Zero Dark Thirty," the controversial account of the CIA's search for Osama bin Laden, landed just one technical award, for sound editing, in a category that was a tie.

Walt Disney Co earned the Best Animated Feature award for Pixar movie "Brave" about a spunky red-headed princess, plus three other awards.

Disney-distributed film "Lincoln," produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks, went home with just two statuettes, Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis and Production Design, after going into the night with an industry-leading 12 nominations.

The film about the 16th U.S. president is leading Best Picture nominees in the box office race, however, selling $179 million worth of tickets at U.S. and Canadian theaters in addition to $59 million in international markets

(Edited by Ronald Grover and Mary Milliken)

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