- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Bob and Harvey Weinstein resumed their perch as Hollywood’s favorite taste-makers Sunday, with “The Artist” and “The Iron Lady” sweeping up key Academy Awards and much of this year’s Oscar nominations bump.

Best picture winner “The Artist” earned $20 million of its $32 million in U.S. ticket sales since the Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 24, while best actress winner “The Iron Lady” pulled down $13 million of its $26 million total.

Combined, the pair of Weinstein Co. films beat out Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants,” which earned $27 million of its $79 million since the nominations, and a best adapted screenplay award to boot.

Five-Oscar winner “Hugo,” distributed by Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, pulled down $14 million of its $69 million in ticket sales since the nominations.

Thomas Langmann, producer of “The Artist,” said it was difficult to get the film made at first. What was initially a turn-off to financiers also made it unique for critics and audiences.

“I knew because it was silent and black and white it would be different and original,” Langmann said backstage after receiving the best picture Oscar. “All the weaknesses in the beginning became strengths.”

A month before the movie was to screen at the Cannes Film Festival last year, Harvey Weinstein flew to France to watch it. It wasn’t long before he decided to become its U.S. distributor.

“I heard him laugh and laugh,” Langmann said. “He really cared for the movie. He believed that we could maybe be here today.”

Besides best picture, “The Artist” took home four other awards for actor, director, original score and costume design.

The box office bump for this year’s nine nominees at $88 million was well short of the $198 million pulled down by the 10 nominees between the nominations and the telecast last year.

It could be because audiences shied away from a black-and-white silent film, while last year’s “The King’s Speech,” also distributed by The Weinstein Co., was more accessible. But the win on Sunday will likely give the film a second life with audiences.

“‘The Artist’ was more challenging for audiences to wrap their minds around for obvious reasons,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com. “However, `The Artist’ will benefit enormously from a best picture win since it will suddenly become a mainstream film by virtue of the Oscar stamp of approval.”