The film Barney's Version, a longtime labour of love for Canadian filmmaker Robert Lantos, has won the Golden Box Office Award.

Screenwriter Michael Konyves and director Richard J. Lewis accepted the Telefilm Canada honour in Toronto on Thursday. Each received a cheque for $20,000.

"It's nice to see the universal appeal of the work that you do, because at the end of the day, you want people to see the movie and you want people to see that we make great films in Canada. It's a great way to export the culture," Lewis told CBC News.

Awarded annually by the film funding agency, the prize recognizes the English-Canadian movie that earned the highest box office during the previous year.

Barney's Version, based on novelist Mordecai Richler's final opus, generated more than $3.2 million at the Canadian box office in 2011. The film also earned about $22 million worldwide.

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Paul Giamatti, left, and Dustin Hoffman in a scene from Barney's Version. Screenwriter Michael Konyves and director Richard J. Lewis accepted Telefilm Canada's Golden Box Office Award for the film on Thursday. (Takashi Seida/Sony Pictures Classics/Associated Press)

Barney's Version stars Paul Giamatti as Barney Panofsky, an aging, cantankerous screenwriter contemplating his life, his failures and his love affairs. The cast also includes Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Rachelle Lefevre and Scott Speedman.

In today's movie environment, it can be a challenge for a movie like Barney's Version to reach viewers, Konyves said.

"It's not a comic book movie, it's a story. It's not something you can [easily] summarize in one sentence or on a poster. It really is like a novel. They don't make a lot of these kinds of movies anymore, so that's always a challenge to get out there," he said.

Canadian movie mogul Lantos, who had been friends with Richler, worked for more than a decade on adapting Barney's Version for film.

"From the Genie Awards to the Golden Globes, Barney's Version has had an impressive success on the national and international scene, winning more than 15 awards while also scoring a popular success as well," said Telefilm executive director Carolle Brabant.

Telefilm recently awarded the French language sister honour for 2011, the Guichet d'Or, to the comedy film Starbuck.