Los Angeles (Reuters) - News Corp's 20th Century Fox received 31 Oscar nods on Thursday, taking the lead among studios in nominations for the 85th annual Academy Awards next month, and positioning it for the box office bounce that films' selections often bring.
The nominations will trigger new and frenzied marketing efforts for the highlighted films, as studios jostle to take advantage of the buzz before Hollywood's biggest night, on February 24.
"For the right film at the right time, Oscar nominations and most importantly a best picture nomination can do wonders for a nominated film's cachet, profile and 'must see' factor," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com.
Fox received 12 nominations for "Lincoln," a U.S. Civil War-era movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis that took home more nominations than any other film, and was co-financed and distributed internationally by the Rupert Murdoch-led studio.
Fox also earned 11 nominations for "Life of Pi," among them best picture, best director and adapted screenplay.
"Lincoln" was produced by Dreamworks and distributed domestically by Walt Disney, which ranked third among studios in nominations, with 17 nods, twelve of them for "Lincoln."
Sony Pictures Entertainment, which was second with 24 nominations, earned nods for "Zero Dark Thirty," "Skyfall" and "Amour," with five nominations each.
Weinstein Company, a privately held company headed by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein that is well-known for its intense post-nomination marketing strategy, pulled in 16, including nods for "Silver Linings Playbook," "The Master" and "Django Unchained."
Last year, Weinstein Co's "The Artist," a film about a silent-movie star, took home the golden statue for best picture, generating $44.6 million in North American box office ticket sales in all. Of that total, 71 percent came in after its nomination and victory.
The Weinstein Co beefed up its TV ads and increased the numbers of theaters in which the movie appeared three days after its Oscar nomination, to 897 from 662, according to the movie online site Box Office Mojo. That number rose to 1,756 a week after it won the award.
"Zero Dark Thirty," a gritty film distributed by Sony about the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs, is being shown in only 60 theaters and will be expanded to about 2,400 theaters on Friday, said Dergarabedian. The film collected five nominations, including those for best picture and best screenplay.
Adam Fogelson, chairman of Universal, a unit of Comcast and distributor of best film nominee "Les Miserables," said the movie's marketing was aimed to take advantage of the awards season, which has helped it at the box office.
Four of this year's best picture nominees, including "Les Miserables," "Lincoln," "Django Unchained" and "Argo," have grossed more than $100 million each in North American ticket sales, an unusually large number for a best-picture crop.
These films already are in more than 2,000 theaters or were there earlier in their run.
Oscars can also breathe new life into DVD sales.
When Lions Gate Entertainment took home the gold for "Crash" in 2006, it had already been released in both the theatrical and DVD markets. Its DVD sales spiked after the Academy Awards, with Lions Gate selling 17,500 copies of "Crash" in one day after the Oscars, more than half the previous week's entire total of 33,000.
(Reporting By Ronald Grover and Sue Zeidler; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)