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Oscar Race Is on: ‘King's Speech’ and ‘True Grit’ in the Lead

Actor Colin Firth poses with his award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) for 'The King's Speech'.
Getty Images
Actor Colin Firth poses with his award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) for 'The King's Speech'.

The race to the Oscars is on: this morning the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences announced the nominations for the February 27th awards ceremony.

The big winner of the morning is "The King's Speech," from The Weinstein Co. — grabbing the lead with a whopping 12 nominations including Best Picture, Actor and Director.

The independent film, which cost an estimated $15 million and has grossed $90 million worldwide, is the new frontrunner in the Oscar race.

Paramount's Coen Brothers western, "True Grit" came in second, with ten nominations. The Coen brothers have a track record for sweeping the Oscars — back in 2007 "No Country for Old Men" won four Oscars including Best Picture. "True Grit," which cost about $40 million, has grossed $137 million since it opened a month ago.

Sony's "Social Network" was considered a front-runner in the Oscar race, so it's a surprise that it only garnered eight nominations, though it did snag key categories including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. It was matched by Paramount's "The Fighter" and Warner Brother's hit summer film "Inception."

This is the second year the Academy is nominating ten films for Best Picture — a strategy to broaden the reach of the Oscars beyond art films, in the hope of drawing a more viewers for the telecast. The list of Best Picture noms was still crowded with more niche fare like Fox's "127 Hours," with just $11 million at the box office, and "Winter's Bone," which has grossed under $8 million worldwide.

But if blockbuster Best Picture noms translates into a big Oscar telecast there is some good news for the Academy: Disney's "Toy Story 3," made the nomination list — it grossed over $1 billion nation-wide. And "Inception" was a huge hit, bringing in $824 million world-wide. Fox's "Black Swan," also a best picture nom, has brought in $94 million worldwide on a just $13 million budget a big payoff for a ballet story line that some expected would turn off mainstream audiences.

Now we'll be watching to see the impact of today's nominations on the box office, video-on-demand rentals and DVD sales of the films. The smaller a film's performance, the more of a bump Oscar attention should provide.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.