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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Batman movie "The Dark Knight" soared away with five People's Choice Awards on Wednesday including favorite movie and on-screen pairing for stars Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger to kick off Hollywood's annual awards season.
Country singer Carrie Underwood, who rose to fame on television talent show "American Idol," was another big winner, hauling in three People's Choice Awards for favorite female singer, country song "Last Name," and star under 35 years-old.
"Fans and people voting for me are what gave me a career in the first place," Underwood said, acknowledging the voting by music lovers. "This is an amazing night."
The People's Choice Awards, in its 35th edition this year, are a widely watched measure of popular appeal for Hollywood stars and they mark a starting point for the industry's annual awards season which runs through the Oscars, the world's top film awards, that take place in February.
Adam Sandler was named funniest male star, Reese Witherspoon favorite female movie star, and Kate Hudson top leading lady among winners in more than 40 categories covering film, television, music and even online entertainment.
Sandler, Witherspoon and Hudson all echoed a familiar theme of the night by saying People's Choice honors were special because they were voted on by fans, as opposed to critics or members of industry groups.
The ceremony also has a more casual atmosphere compared to TV's Emmy's or the film industry's Oscars, where black ties and ball gowns are mandatory.
Noting that difference, Katherine Heigl, who accepted the trophy for best comedy movie for her "27 Dresses," told reporters backstage that she wore a pants suit because "it was after the holidays, so I didn't want to wear anything strapless or anything I had to suck in my stomach for."
Among film honors, "Dark Knight," which was 2008's top film at box offices with global ticket sales of nearly $1 billion, also proved to be the No. 1 movie of the night. Along with best film and on-screen match-up, it hauled in awards for favorite action movie, superhero for Bale as Batman, and for its cast.
"The Secret Life of Bees" was the winner of best film drama and favorite independent film, and animated "Wall-E" was the No. 1 family film for People's Choice voters.
In the TV arena, medical show "House" was named favorite TV drama, and "Two and a Half Men" was best TV comedy.
"The Mentalist" was top new TV drama while "Gary Unmarried" was the No. 1 new TV comedy.
"House" star Hugh Laurie took home the trophy for favorite male TV star, and Christina Applegate took the honor of top female TV star for "Samantha Who?"
Applegate, who revealed earlier this year that she underwent surgery for breast cancer, said the award meant a lot to her after a difficult year."
"I feel great. I really do," she told reporters backstage. "Each week gets easier and each week gets better."
Ellen DeGeneres was named best TV talk show host and "Dancing With the Stars" was the people's pick for No. 1 competition or reality TV show.
Along with Underwood, top winners in music included Kid Rock for favorite rock song "All Summer Long," Rascal Flatts for favorite group, Chris Brown best male singer and Katy Perry with best pop tune "I Kissed a Girl." A complete list of winners can be found at www.pcavote.com.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Eric Walsh