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Producers Guild of America hails 'Slumdog Millionaire' as best picture

January 24, 2009 | 10:16 pm

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"Slumdog Millionaire" just leapt ahead on the derby track toward a likey big win at the Oscars by being voted best picture by the Producers Guild of America.

Over the past 19 years, PGA has correctly forecast best picture at the Academy Awards 12 times. However, most of that agreement was in earlier years. The Oscars and PGA Awards agreed last year on "No Country for Old Men," but they disagreed the previous three years.

Some kudos watchers believed that the guild would automatically pick "The Dark Knight" as best picture because producers care a lot about their films' succeeding financially. "The Dark Knight" was not only the top-earning movie of 2008 ($531 million in the U.S., $997 million worldwide), but the second-biggest-grossing pic of all time, surpassed only by "Titantic" ($1.8 billion worldwide in 1997).

But "Slumdog Millionaire" is a fantastic financial success in other ways. Produced for only $14 million, it's already grossed $48 million in the U.S. and will probably exceed $80 million in toto. Overseas, it's likely to match that performance. As a business venture, "Slumdog Millionaire" is providing an extraordinary return on investment.

Futhermore, "Slumdog Millionaire" is a financial fairy tale that's irresistable in Hollywood as a real story of the triumph of a true underdog. Just last year the film was slated to go straight to DVD after the demise of Warner Independent, but it was miraculously rescued by Fox Searchlight, the most successful indie branch of Hollwood's big studios.

Producers may often be considered cold-hearted biz cats, but they've shown glimpses of warm hearts and romantic spirits when deciding past awards. In 2001, voters made the surprising choice of "Moulin Rouge!" over "A Beautiful Mind." In 1992, they picked "The Crying Game" over "Unforgiven." 

Here's how our pundits fared predicting what film would win tonight at the Hollywood Palladium gala.

Below is a comparison between the PGA and Oscars' choices of best picture on a year-by-year basis.

BEST PICTURE WINNERS: OSCARS VS. PGA AWARDS

2007
"No Country for Old Men" - PGA, Oscar

2006
"Little Miss Sunshine" - PGA
"The Departed" - Oscar

2005
"Brokeback Mountain" - PGA
"Crash" - Oscar

2004
"The Aviator" - PGA
"Million Dollar Baby" - Oscar

2003
"Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" - PGA, Oscar

2002
"Chicago" - PGA,  Oscar

2001
"Moulin Rouge!" - PGA
"A Beautiful Mind" - Oscar

2000
"Gladiator" - PGA, Oscar

1999
"American Beauty" - PGA, Oscar

1998
"Saving Private Ryan" - PGA
"Shakespeare in Love" - Oscar

1997
"Titantic" - PGA, Oscar

1996
"The English Patient" - PGA, Oscar

1995
"Apollo 13" - PGA
"Braveheart" - Oscar

1994
"Forrest Gump" - PGA, Oscar

1993
"Schindler's List" - PGA, Oscar

1992
"The Crying Game" - PGA
"Unforgiven" - Oscar

1991
"The Silence of the Lambs" - PGA, Oscar

1990
"Dances with Wolves" - PGA, Oscar

1989
"Driving Miss Daisy" - PGA, Oscar

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Photo: Fox Searchlight

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