Open Road Films, a small movie producer founded by two theater chains just five years ago, upstaged Hollywood's big studios on Sunday by winning the coveted best picture award and a likely sales boost for its Catholic Church scandal drama "Spotlight."
Voters for the film industry's top awards spread the accolades among several films, including 20th Century Fox's
The most-honored film was "Mad Max: Fury Road" from Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros., which took home six Oscars in technical categories.
Movie studios mount multi-million-dollar campaigns for their Oscar contenders. The awards lend prestige along with bragging rights that the studios can use in advertising. Roughly 40 million people in the United States watch the Oscars telecast each year.
The recognition is expected to lift theater, DVD and digital sales of the winners, analysts said. Last year's winner, "Birdman," sold $4.6 million worth of tickets after the award, about 11 percent of its total sales, according to comScore data.
This year's best picture trophy is a major victory for Open Road, formed in 2011 as a joint venture by Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment. AMC is now owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, part of the growing investment in Hollywood by Chinese companies.
Open Road's goal was to finance smaller-budget movies at a time when big studios turned their focus to expensive blockbusters. "Spotlight" was produced for about $20 million with Participant Media, a company founded by former eBay President Jeff Skoll to produce entertainment content that inspires social change.
"Open Road and Participant Media have been great champions of the film and for creating a different option for filmmakers," "Spotlight" producer Michael Sugar said backstage.
"Spotlight" has sold $61.8 million worth of tickets at theaters worldwide.
"The Revenant," which has grossed a massive $404 million, was perfectly timed to capitalize on awards buzz, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. The film hit theaters nationwide in January right before the Oscar nominations and just after its Golden Globe wins. "It was able to catch an awards season wave," Dergarabedian said.
Among other winners on Sunday, independent studio A24 won three awards including best actress for "Room" star Brie Larson and best documentary for "Amy." Walt Disney Co won two Oscars, including best animated feature for Pixar's "Inside Out."