Weinsteins win big on Oscar night with ‘Artist’

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar gold shined again on independent film mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose studio took home eight Academy Awards including best picture honors for "The Artist" on Sunday.

The New York-based Weinstein Co triumphed over the deep-pocketed major studios with wins for "The Artist," "The Iron Lady" and documentary "Undefeated." Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures was second among the studios with six awards for "Hugo" and "Rango."

Studios mount months-long, multi-million dollar campaigns for Oscar wins to earn prestige and jumpstart ticket or DVD sales for their films. Some experts estimate a win can boost sales by as much as a third.

The studio led by Bob and Harvey Weinstein went into the night with 16 nominations. "The Artist" won awards for best picture, actor, director, costume design and original score.

"The Iron Lady" took home trophies for Meryl Streep's portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and for makeup.

"Undefeated," an inspiring story about a struggling high school football team in a poor Memphis neighborhood, won the award for best documentary feature.

"Artist" producer Thomas Langmann, speaking to reporters backstage, credited Harvey Weinstein for embracing the black-and-white silent film.

"I could tell that he really cared and he believed that we could maybe be here today. I think he's the only distributor, even with this special movie, that could take it to where it is today," Langmann said.

The Weinstein Co had a big hit in last year's Oscar best picture, "The King's Speech," which grossed $135.4 million theatrically but have not done nearly as well since then. "The Artist" has grossed $31.9 million in the United States and Canada, where the company has distribution rights. The studio is likely to expand the movie to more theaters in the coming weeks to capitalize on its Oscar wins.

Last year, "The King's Speech" saw ticket sales increase by 21 percent after winning the award, according to website IMDB.

The Weinstein Co. has had less than stellar results with "Iron Lady," which has grossed $25.7 million in North America (United States and Canada) or drama "My Week with Marilyn," which had generated only $14 million.

Weinstein could use a big hit. With debts mounting in 2010, it was forced to sell its 200-film library to Goldman Sachs in return for $50 million, and in 2009 received a $75 million bridge loan from Ziff Brothers. Last week, the Weinsteins paid off the debt with a $150 million loan but still are said to be looking for a $200 million production loan, a person familiar with the matter said.

A Weinstein Co. spokeswoman, reached on Sunday evening, said the company could not comment about the company's financing during the awards show.

Paramount's six wins included five technical awards for "Hugo" and a win for best animated feature, "Rango."

Ahead of the ceremony, Sony Pictures ranked as the leading studio with 21 nominations for movies such as thriller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and baseball drama "Moneyball." The unit of Sony Corp won three awards.

Walt Disney's movie studio won two Oscars. News Corp's Fox film division and Comcast Corp's Universal studios picked up one award each.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover; ; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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