January 25, 2009 / 6:35 AM / 9 years ago

"Slumdog" claims Hollywood producers' top prize

<p>A boy walks past publicity posters of Golden Globe award-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" in Mumbai, January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The low-budget arthouse hit “Slumdog Millionaire,” a rags-to-riches story set in India, won the top film prize from Hollywood’s producers on Saturday, giving it another boost in the race for the Oscars next month.

“Slumdog,” directed by British filmmaker Danny Boyle, collected 10 Oscar nominations on Thursday, including a nod for best picture, more than any other movie except “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which earned 13.

The top award from the Producers Guild of America, or PGA, goes to the movie’s producer, in this case Christian Colson, whose previous feature credits consist of three relatively obscure thrillers.

His latest film is the story of a young man from the teeming slums of Mumbai who risks it all for love and a shot at instant wealth as a contestant on the Indian version of the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

“Slumdog” has won raves from critics and crossed over from arthouse success to delight mainstream audiences, even cracking the top 10 at the box office last weekend.

The film was expected to gain commercial momentum this weekend as it expands into wide U.S. release, playing in more than 1,000 theaters after earning Oscar recognition.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight, the specialty label of News Corp’s 20th Century Fox, the film has grossed more than $48 million in North America and over $65 million to date worldwide, according to the movie website boxofficemojo.com.

The Producers Guild award is considered an important bellwether for Oscar success as its members make up an important constituency of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on the Oscars.

In its first 19 years, 12 of the PGA’s top film picks went on to win the Academy Award for best picture, including last year’s champion, “No Country for Old Men,” although the producers missed the mark for three straight years starting in 2005.

Besides “Benjamin Button,” starring Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse, “Slumdog” is competing for the top Oscar against the gay-rights biopic “Milk,” the post-Holocaust love story “The Reader” and the political-media drama “Frost/Nixon.”

All but “The Reader” had been in the running for the PGA’s prize for best film.

The Producers Guild also honored the hit robot love story “Wall-E” as the year’s best animated film and “Man on Wire,” the story of a man who walked a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers in 1974, as best documentary.

For television, the PGA honored producers of the AMC drama “Mad Men,” the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” and the Comedy Central network commentary spoof “The Colbert Report.”

Editing by Peter Cooney

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