The thriller Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, has been voted Film of the Year by the UK’s regional critics.

The prestigious accolade is the first UK award given to Argo, which has recently garnered a succession of awards in the US and has seven nominations at both the BAFTAs and Academy Awards, which will be presented later this month.

ABOVE: The trailer for Argo

Ben Affleck expressed his delight: “We thank the UK regional film critics on behalf of all the cast and production team for voting Argo Film of the Year in the Richard Attenborough critics’ awards.”

The 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall, now the UK’s all-time box-office champion with more than £102 million in cinema ticket sales, picked up two regional critics’ awards – for Sam Mendes (Director of the Year) and Ben Whishaw (Rising Star) – further boosting Skyfall’s international tally in this awards season.

The regional critics’ prize for Screenplay of the Year went to Amy Jump, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram for Sightseers, the original British comedy directed by Ben Wheatley.

The fifth and final award, for British Performance of the Year, was uniquely decided by a public vote run in conjunction with the film website The winner was Robert Pattinson for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the concluding and highest-grossing entry in the blockbuster series.

Established in 2006, the UK Regional Critics’ Film Awards are dedicated to Richard (Lord) Attenborough CBE, actor, filmmaker and champion of British cinema.

Known in full as The Richard Attenborough UK Regional Critics’ Film Awards (RAFAs), they celebrate excellence and achievement in filmmaking. The winners are voted for by film journalists and bloggers who write or broadcast for local media throughout the UK. In recognition of their accomplishments, each winner receives a plinth-mounted RAFA award engraved with Richard Attenborough’s signature.

Regional film journalists continue to play a significant role in identifying and championing new films and filmmaking talents. Three-quarters of UK cinema admissions take place outside the London TV region. In 2012, 107.8 million cinema visits were made in England and Wales (excluding London), 15.9 million in Scotland and 5.9 million in Northern Ireland. The overall UK total (including London) was 172.5 million cinema visits, which generated box-office receipts of £1.1 billion, a new record.

Steve Oram, one of the Sightseers screenwriters, said: “Thank you, it’s a real honour. And thank you too to everyone in the regional media who have supported Sightseers, it’s made a huge difference and won’t be forgotten.”