'12 Years' Oscar a golden ticket for box office, DVD sales

LOS ANGELES Mon Mar 3, 2014 1:29am EST

Director and producer Steve McQueen (R) celebrates after accepting the Oscar for best picture for his film ''12 Years a Slave'', with actress Lupita Nyong'o (L), at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California March 2, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Director and producer Steve McQueen (R) celebrates after accepting the Oscar for best picture for his film ''12 Years a Slave'', with actress Lupita Nyong'o (L), at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California March 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Historical drama "12 Years a Slave" was awarded the top prize at Sunday night's Academy Awards show, claiming the Oscar for best picture and boosting the revenue its distributor Fox Searchlight can expect from added theater and home entertainment sales.

"12 Years a Slave" won a total of three Oscars, including for Lupita Nyong'o for best supporting actress. "Gravity," distributed by Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros., was the night's big winner with seven Oscars, including one for Alfonso Cuaron as best director.

"Dallas Buyer's Club," which was distributed by Comcast Corp's Focus Features studio, won three Oscars, including Matthew McConaughey for best actor and Jared Leto for best supporting actor.

The Oscars telecast, seen by an average each year of about 40 million people in the United States, is Hollywood's biggest annual publicity event and can spark new interest in the winning films.

Before the ceremony, studios generally spent upwards of $2 million for advertisements, screenings and other events aimed at the Academy's more than 6,000 voters, according to industry insiders.

"There's a bump when a film gets a nomination and another if it's a winner in one of the major categories," said former Columbia Pictures marketing president Peter Sealey, CEO of the Sausalito Group strategic marketing company. "It's not big but it can be meaningful."

Last year, Warner Bros. added nearly 200 theaters the weekend after "Argo" won best picture, even though the Ben Affleck film had been playing on the big screen for five months and its DVD was already on sale.

The film collected nearly $8 million in theater ticket sales over the next month, according to the tracking site Box Office Mojo, boosting its overall box office by 5 percent.

Fox Searchlight intends to release "12 Years a Slave" on Blu-ray disc on Tuesday, while the film is still playing in about 340 U.S. theaters. It also is on the big screen in 56 foreign territories. The studio has not yet said whether it might bring the film to more theaters after the Oscars.

The film had sold $140 million worth of tickets around the world before Sunday's ceremony, according to tracking firm Rentrak.

Warner Brothers released "Gravity" on DVD and Blu-ray disc last week. The film has earned $704 million at global box offices.

Alfonso Cuaron, director of "Gravity," thanked the "wise people" of Warner Bros. as he accepted his award. The studio stuck with the 3D thriller through two sets of leadership, he said, singling out executives including current chief Kevin Tsujihara and former head Alan Horn.

Walt Disney will release the Blu-ray disc of "Frozen," Oscar winner for best animated feature, on March 18, even as the film continues to play in more than 1,700 theaters, the company said. "Frozen" has sold more than $1 billion worth of tickets worldwide.

Sunday's Oscar winners will undoubtedly get a splash of TV and newspaper ads in the coming week.

"We used to buy newspaper ads on Sunday night for any of our films in the running," said former Columbia marketing chief Sealey. "We got some extra attention on Monday morning. If it didn't win, we just ate the cost."

(Reporting By Ronald Grover, editing by Jill Serjeant)

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