Sony, Paramount and Weinstein Co. get Oscar boost
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Movie studio Sony Pictures Entertainment received 21 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, fending off stiff competition from rival companies Paramount Pictures and The Weinstein Co. for Academy Award nods, which can boost box office and DVD sales.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, a unit of Sony Corp and parent for Sony Pictures Classics, Sony Pictures Releasing and Columbia Pictures, picked up six nominations for "Moneyball" and five for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" among its nods.
"What was wonderful about this year is that we got to make a bunch of movies that are not usually the kind of movies that are a studios' bread and butter, and all of them paid off this year and that's really gratifying," said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, citing "Dragon Tattoo" and "Moneyball" as "not normal studio movies."
Oscars nominations typically help boost revenues of movies that are still playing at box offices because awards publicity heightens awareness by casual moviegoers.
The studios supplement their marketing by leveraging the prestige that comes with a nod for the world's top film honors, and Oscars help boost sales of DVDs and licensing fees for future television airings.
While Sony Pictures led with 21 nominations, Paramount's "Hugo" scored the most nods of any single film with 11.
The film, which has a reported production budget estimated at $150 million, has amassed only $55 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices since its release in November 2011, and $27.3 million in overseas ticket sales.
But producer Graham King noted "Hugo" is still in theaters, has not played in many international markets, and the acclaim from Oscar nods should lead to its long life in libraries.
"The 11 nominations will help the international (box office). I'm hoping the nominations help people discover the film, and I hope it will have a long shelf life, and in 15 or 20 years people will still be talking about it," King told Reuters.
The only film in the best picture race this year to have crossed the $100 million milestone in the North America domestic box office sales, so far, is "The Help," which has grossed $169 million since its release in August 2011.
THUMBS UP FOR WEINSTEIN
While Sony and Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., made out well among major studios, it may be privately-held The Weinstein Co. that sees the biggest boost from nominations.
Run by Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob, who led Miramax Films until 2005, Weinstein Co had 16 nominations including 10 for "The Artist" -- second to "Hugo."
Last year, the company received 12 nominations for "The King's Speech" and timed its release to leverage the publicity of nominations. It went on to win best picture and grossed $138 million at domestic box offices.
The Weinsteins have adopted a similar strategy for "The Artist" and "The Iron Lady," which earned Meryl Streep a nod for best actress in her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Both movies rolled out in limited release across New York and Los Angeles late last year to qualify for Oscars, before their wider release from January through March.
Similarly, Sony Pictures has taken "Moneyball," which grossed $75 million at domestic box offices since its initial release in September 2011, and re-issued the film in a limited number of theaters.
Also on Tuesday, Paramount Pictures said it will re-release this week the movie "Rango," which earned a nomination for best animated film on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group received 13 nominations, led by Steven Spielberg's epic World War I tale, "War Horse" with six nods, while News Corp's Fox film divisions received 10 nominations, led by family drama "The Descendants" with five nods. Both "War Horse" and "Descendants" are still playing in theaters.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)