Focus Features’ Loving topped the weekend’s Specialty Box Office with a $169K gross in four Los Angeles and New York locations for a $42,250 per theater average.  These numbers make it the fifth best opener of 2016 in terms of per theater average – after Moonlight ($100,519), Don’t Think Twice ($92,835), Howards End ($52,568) and The Lobster ($47,563).

So far, Loving’s opening weekend numbers are right in line with major films from the 2015 awards season.  Last year’s, Oscar contender, The Theory of Everything, grossed nearly $209K in five theaters in November of that year, and went on to cume nearly $36M.  Last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Spotlight also debuted in November 2015, and grossed $295K in five initial runs, averaging $59K. The film went on to cume $45.05M.

“Audiences love Loving.  They’re really embracing the timeliness of the love story, the beautiful performances and direction. We saw incredibly strong exits across the board in New York and Los Angeles with both men and women and are appealing to a diverse audience as well. This is a great start and we’re anticipating muscular legs as we continue to expand.” –  Lisa Bunnell, Focus’ President, Distribution

Loving premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and has already cemented itself as a strong Oscar contender.  Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, the film stars Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Black Mass).  Negga and Edgerton portray the real life interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving who were icons of the civil rights movement as their fight for equality led the Supreme Court to rule the ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional.

The interracial couple from Virginia were married in June 1958, when interracial relationships were illegal.  Authorities broke into their home, arrested them, and sentenced them to a year in the state penitentiary.  The sentence was then suspended under the condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia.  The couple then spent nearly a decade fighting a legal battle that ultimately resulted in the Supreme Court’s declaration that the ban of interracial marriage were unconstitutional (the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision of 1967).

The film was inspired by Nancy Buirski’s beautiful 2011 HBO documentary The Loving Story which consisted of footage of the couple and contemporary interviews with Peggy Loving, their daughter.

Focus will expand Loving to 45 theaters in 15 North American markets including Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Toronto.