Oscar winner 'Slumdog' a millionaire beneficiary

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image ap"><span>AP</span></div><span class="caption-text">Angelina Jolie, nominated for an Oscar for best actress in a leading role for her work in &#34;Changeling,&#34; and Brad Pitt, nominated for best actor in a leading role for his work in &#34;The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,&#34; arrivesfor the 81st Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.  (Chris Pizzello)</span></div>
February 22, 2009 10:28:29 PM PST
"Slumdog Millionaire" hauled in the most Oscars on Sunday night but it also received the biggest bounce at the box office of the best-picture nominees. RELATED LINK: FULL OSCAR COVERAGE

The rags-to-riches tale brought in an extra $54 million domestically since its nomination Jan. 22 - more than doubling its gross since its November premiere, to $98 million to date.

The lift for the winner of eight Oscars on Sunday, including best picture and director, was more than all of the four other best-picture nominees combined, according to tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the next biggest beneficiary from the post-nomination period and the winner of three Oscars, added just $20.6 million to its $124.2 million total.

But the sometime disconnect between critical acclaim and box-office success was given a humorous nod by host Hugh Jackman in his opening number.

"'The Reader,' I haven't seen 'The Reader.' I know I need to see 'The Reader,"' Jackman sang, referring the Holocaust-themed drama, for which Kate Winslet won the best actress award. "I ran out of time."

The worsening economy almost sank "Slumdog" as Time Warner Inc. announced it would shut down Warner Independent, which had bought its North American distribution rights. The movie was headed for a direct-to-DVD release when News Corp.'s Fox Searchlight stepped in to distribute it, eventually showing it in 1,600 theaters nationwide.

Despite its troubled start, the uplifting story about a downtrodden boy and girl falling in love through tough times turned out to be exactly what audiences wanted to see.

"Actually it's a film that says there are more important things than money," said Simon Beaufoy, who took home an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, to reporters backstage. "That struck a chord."

But the win comes at a troubling time for major studios, which have announced restructuring plans as well as smaller film slates going forward to mitigate risk in a tough economy.

Niche labels have shut down or been folded into their parents, including Warner Bros.' Warner Independent, Picturehouse and New Line Cinema brands, Paramount's Paramount Vantage, and Capitol Films' THINKFilm.

Among the other best-picture nominees, Universal Pictures' "Frost/Nixon" nearly doubled its post-nomination gross by $8.6 million to $17.4 million; The Weinstein Co.'s "The Reader," gained $15.3 million to $23.2 million; and "Milk," by Universal's Focus Features added $7.6 million to $28.2 million.

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