Nomadland took a significant step towards best picture success at the Oscars after winning the top prize at the 32nd Producers Guild Awards.
Director Chloe Zhao’s exploration of an American West rarely portrayed by Hollywood won the Darryl F Zanuck Award for outstanding producer of theatrical motion pictures.
Nomadland stars Frances McDormand as a 60-something woman who hits the road after losing her job in the Great Recession.
Peter Spears, a producer on the film alongside Zhao and McDormand, accepted the prize during a virtual ceremony.
After thanking the Producers Guild Of America, he said: “In a year where we have all been leading such isolated lives and movies felt so vital, we are proud to have produced a film about community and what connects us.
“But this was only possible because of the hearts and hands you see here that came together to make this movie. You honour the entire Nomadland company with this award.”
Spears extended his thanks to the itinerant communities who featured in the film and said they “welcomed us into their lives, shared their stories and taught us about the power of resilience, hope and kindness”.
Nomadland won the PGA’s top prize ahead of several of its Academy Awards best picture rivals including Mank, Minari, Promising Young Woman and The Trial Of The Chicago 7.
Before the ceremony, 21 of the previous 31 winners of the PGA’s top prize went on to be named best picture at the Oscars, making it one of the most accurate barometers ahead of the Academy Awards.
However last year’s winner, Sir Sam Mendes’ war epic 1917, was beaten to the top prize at the Oscars by South Korean dark comedy Parasite.
Nomadland has six nominations ahead of next month’s Oscars – including best director for Zhao and best actress for McDormand – and has previously won best film at the Golden Globes and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
In the PGA’s TV categories, The Crown won the Norman Felton Award for the best drama.
The first prize of the night, the Danny Thomas award for outstanding producer of episodic television (comedy), was presented by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and won by the producers of Schitt’s Creek.
Eugene Levy created and stars in the show alongside his son Daniel and said it “has been a joy to work on”.
The producers of Netflix film My Octopus Teacher won the documentary motion picture prize.
The award for outstanding producer of game and competition TV went to the team behind RuPaul’s Drag Race while the producers of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver won the live entertainment and talk television prize.
Actress, writer and producer Mindy Kaling introduced the animated film category, joking the movies were a favourite of viewers who enjoy cannabis edibles. The award was won by the producers of Disney’s Soul.
Normal People star Paul Mescal introduced the prize for televised or streamed film, which was won by the makers of the Disney+ version of hit music Hamilton.
The David L Wolper Award for limited series TV went to the producers of Netflix’s chess drama The Queen’s Gambit.
Sports documentary The Last Dance won the prize for outstanding producer of non-fiction TV.
The PGA’s In memoriam section included tributes to Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, filmmaker and philanthropist Steve Bing and Carl Reiner, the giant of US comedy.
The Academy Awards will take place in Los Angeles on April 25.