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'Spotlight's Oscars victory could be a game-changer for Open Road Films

20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. led their studio rivals at the Oscars on Sunday, thanks to robust showings from "The Revenant" and "Mad Max: Fury Road."

Fox's "The Revenant" took home three of the top prizes at the 88th Academy Awards: lead actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu) and cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki). Warner Bros.' "Mad Max: Fury Road" scored six technical awards.

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However, in a mild surprise, Open Road Films grabbed the biggest award of the evening — best picture — for the journalism drama "Spotlight." The Tom McCarthy-directed picture also took home the Oscar for original screenplay. Open Road, a distributor based in Los Angeles, is co-owned by cinema chains AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment Group.

"Spotlight," produced by Anonymous Content and Rocklin/Faust, and financed by Participant Media, represented the first best picture victory for Open Road, which was founded in 2011. "Spotlight" has grossed $62 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

"The Revenant's" best picture loss may have been an upset, but it is a big hit at the box office. Since being released in four theaters as part of an awards-qualifying run on Christmas Day, "The Revenant" has grossed $404 million worldwide.

The R-rated "Revenant," which cost an estimated $135 million to make, was largely financed by entertainment company New Regency, and also got backing from other firms including RatPac Entertainment.

In all, Century City-based Fox earned four awards, including a surprise supporting actor win for Mark Rylance in the DreamWorks Studios production "Bridge of Spies." Fox released the Steven Spielberg-directed drama internationally. Sylvester Stallone had been the favorite for his role in "Creed."

Warner Bros.' "Mad Max: Fury Road" revved up early in the ceremony with a slew of crafts awards, including costume design, hair and makeup, and production design. "Mad Max," directed by George Miller, did strong business at the box office when it was released in May. The high-octane, post-apocalyptic feature grossed $377 million worldwide, including $153 million in the U.S. and Canada.

"Fury Road," starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, has been widely praised for its use of practical effects. It cost $150 million to make.

Warner Bros. was also hoping "Creed" would net Sylvester Stallone a supporting actor award, but the film came up short in the only category it was nominated.

The Walt Disney Co. experienced a mixed night. The company's blockbuster "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," did not take home any awards despite being nominated for five Oscars.

However, "Inside Out," produced by Disney's Pixar Animation Studios, won for animated feature. The studio also got a boost from Rylance's supporting actor win for his role in "Bridge of Spies," which Walt Disney Studios distributed in North America.

And the Burbank entertainment giant got some extra publicity during the awards show. During the telecast — which aired on Disney-owned ABC — several of the company's iconic characters appeared on screen, including "Toy Story" stars Buzz Lightyear and Woody, who presented the award for animated feature.

Sony Pictures Entertainment had two winners: "Son of Saul" for foreign language film (from specialty label Sony Pictures Classics), and the James Bond movie "Spectre" won for original song "Writing's On the Wall." Paramount Pictures tallied one award: "The Big Short" won for adapted screenplay.

Besides "Spotlight," the indie crowd had a few other wins. Focus Features scored with Alicia Vikander's supporting actress win for "The Danish Girl."

A24's indie sci-fi thriller "Ex Machina" won for visual effects; the company also collected trophies for documentary feature for "Amy," and lead actress for Brie Larson's turn in "Room."

The Weinstein Co. endured a rare year without a best picture nominee from its slate. However, its Quentin Tarantino epic western "The Hateful Eight" won for Italian composer Ennio Morricone's original score.

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

daniel.miller@latimes.com

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 29, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Open Road makes a big breakthrough - `Spotlight' gives the studio founded in 2011 its first victory for best picture." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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