UPDATE: I’m now told that the deal was worth $9 million for North America and most international territories by Focus, which sees the Loving’s struggle through racism as a love story for the ages.

EXCLUSIVE: In its first statement acquisition since Focus Features was overhauled, the Universal-based specialty label has won an auction for Loving, the Jeff Nichols-directed drama that stars Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga and Michael Shannon. The deal was made off of promo footage shown to buyers last night by CAA, which brokered the deal in heated competition. The film tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and African American woman who fell in love and married in 1958. Their home state of Virginia sought to end their love story by first jailing and then banishing them, and it became a landmark Supreme Court case and important victory in the Civil Rights battle. Focus Features acquired distribution rights in North American and most major international territories, including UK, Germany and Latin America. Loving was financed by Big Beach and developed by Raindog Films.

This is the first acquisition under Peter Kujawski, Abhijay Prakash and Robert Walak’s leadership at the new Focus. I’m still waiting to find out what they paid here, but they moved aggressively after buyers were shown scenes from the film Friday night in Berlin. Nichols, who helmed Mud and Take Shelter, wrote a script that is inspired by Nancy Buirski’s Emmy Award-winning documentary The Loving Story. It is a celebration of courage by the Lovings, whose love would not be denied. They took a civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, all the way to the Supreme Court, which reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry – and their union became an inspiration to couples everywhere. Edgerton is coming off Black Mass, while Negga starred in 12 Years A Slave and World War Z. Shannon starred for Nichols in a tour de force performance in Take Shelter, and most recently starred in 99 Homes.

Loving is produced by Ged Doherty & Colin Firth (Eye In The Sky), Sarah Green (Mud, The Tree of Life), Buirski, and Marc Turtletaub & Peter Saraf (Little Miss Sunshine). Executive producer is Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Loving was developed by Raindog Films and financed by Big Beach. Jack Turner and Jared Goldman also exec produced. It is a coproduction between Big Beach and Raindog Films in association with Augusta Films and TriState Pictures.