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‘Star Wars,’ ‘Empire’ Top Publicists Guild Awards

Hollywood publicists have awarded “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with the Maxwell Weinberg Showmanship trophy for top publicity campaign for a movie last year.

The award was announced at the 53rd Annual ICG Publicists Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with more than 900 attending.

The seventh “Star Wars” movie launched Dec. 16 and has grossed more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office for Disney. Michelle Sewall, Disney’s senior VP of publicity, said that “The Force Awakens” presented challenges because of the unique nature of the franchise and its relation to the fanbase.

“We did exercise incredible restraint in the campaign,” she said. “You could not do anything you had done  before.”

Fox’s second season of “Empire” won the best publicity campaign in television. The music industry series has been renewed for a third season.

The guild’s Les Mason Award was given posthumously to publicist Murray Weissman, who died in November.

Barry Wechter and Chuck Hodes received awards for Excellence in Still Photography for motion pictures and TV, respectively. The Press Award went to Bryan Alexander of USA Today, who impressed the audience with a two-word acceptance speech — “Thank you” — then immediately left the stage.

Yuko Yoshikawa, Reuters Japan correspondent, won the international award. The Bob Yeager Award for community service was given to Elaine Lazelle of Disney.

Lily Tomlin received a lifetime achievement award from Sally Field. Tomlin cracked up the room by saying, “This means to me more than the Oscar I don’t have.”

Tom Ortenberg, CEO of Open Road Films, was presented the motion picture showmanship award by Michael Keaton, and John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, received the television showmanship award from Ryan Murphy.

In lieu of gift bags this year, the ICG Publicists made donations in honor of its members and sponsors to the Motion Picture and Television Fund and to the Actors Fund.

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