Oscars Gold Spread Across Studios, as ABC Gets Musical
CNBC Media and Entertainment Reporter
On the night Hollywood markets itself to the world, it spread its awards around to classic Hollywood genres: the star-studded musical ("Les Miserables"); the epic Western ("Django Unchained"); the tony literary adaptation ("Life of Pi"); the historical bio pic ("Lincoln"); the romantic comedy ("Silver Linings Playbook"); and the international thriller ("Argo"). These iconic genres — rather than quirky independent films — were the major award winners. The biggest winners were also the biggest box office hits, each of these five grossed over $100 million at the U.S. box office.
There were few surprises — other than Michelle Obama unveiling the "Best Picture" winner. Despite some offensive jokes, the show went traditional — and big — with a slew of musical numbers.
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So which studios won? As the awards were unusually spread out between films — the accolades were also unusually split among studios. News Corp.'s Fox was the biggest winner, thanks to "Life of Pi." Then four studios are tied with three awards each: Sony, NBCUniversal's Universal Pictures, Time Warner's Warner Brothers, and the Weinstein Co. (NBCUniversal is parent of CNBC and CNBC.com.)
Steven Spielberg and Stacy Snider's Dreamworks drew two awards, as did Walt Disney, which distributes Dreamworks' films, technically putting Disney into the same category as Fox. Sony Pictures Classics — part of Sony — had another two wins and Universal's Focus features another one.
Warner Brothers' "Argo" took home the top prize, despite the fact that just a few months ago "Lincoln" — from Hollywood's elder statesman Steven Spielberg — was considered the front-runner, snagging the most nominations. But "Argo" wasn't just a great movie, it also appealed to the 6,000 industry veteran Academy members penchant for history and movies about Hollywood. Argo's win was a bit unusual — a film hasn't won "Best Picture" without a "Best Director" nomination since 1990, and its three Oscars were the fewest any best picture had won since 2006.
Ang Lee won "Best Director" for "Life of Pi" — also beating out Spielberg, considered the other front-runner. "Lincoln's" star Daniel Day Lewis took home the gold, but the historical drama also lost out when front-runner Tommy Lee Jones was passed over for "Best Supporting Actor" for Christoph Waltz, who won for "Django Unchained."
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We'll see whether ABC scored ratings gold last night, if host Seth MacFarlane's 17 minute self-referential opening monologue hooked or turned off viewers. The network has one thing working strongly in its favor: More popular films draw higher ratings, and this year's show was full of them. Efforts to bring a more populist voice into the Oscar voting pool seems to be working; in harsh contrast to last year, when indie black-and-white musical "The Artist" won, the awards went to more commercial studio fare. ABC and the Academy want the awards show to return to its ratings peak, which is why it relied so heavily on music numbers — inspired by the ratings success of the Grammys.
One thing's for sure: Live events are more valuable TV than ever, and the Academy, and all of Hollywood, want the Oscars to remain a relevant, entertaining event to promote both individual films and the industry as a whole. We'll see if viewers bought in this year, or if in a world of so much content available instantly at the touch of a finger a "Lincoln" joke or two that fell flat, prompting them to change the channel.
People certainly seemed to be interacting on the second screen. Twitter reports that there were 8.9 million tweets about the show, 2.1 million during the red carpet, and 6.8 million during the show. The peak was when the "Best Picture" award went to "Argo," with 85,300 tweets per minute. The second-highest number of tweets per minute was when Adele performed "Skyfall," with just 3,000 fewer.
And the awards could certainly drive movie-going — or home entertainment activity. Google reports that of the top 10 most searched nominees, four were movies: following Jennifer Lawrence, Daniel Day Lewis, and Anne Hathaway, people were looking for information about "Life of Pi," "Les Miserables," "Argo," and "Silver Linings Playbook," which could very well drive viewing.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin