Focus Features’ Loving by Jeff Nichols easily topped the weekend’s Specialty Box Office with a robust $169K gross in several theaters, making the Oscar hopeful starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton the fifth best opener of 2016 in terms of per theater average. Loving, which opened this week’s Virginia Film Festival, is firmly placed between last November’s awards heavy-hitters, Spotlight and Brooklyn. Also mostly strong out of the gate was Sony Classics’ Sundance doc The Eagle Huntress, which is itself eyeing possible awards attention. The Mongolian feature grossed nearly $54K in several locations. Jim Jarmusch doc Gimme Danger from Amazon and Magnolia grossed $119K in its second frame with a sizable addition of theaters in its second frame, while A24’s Moonlight continues to seduce in its third weekend amidst another expansion, grossing over $1.33M. And in its sixth weekend, Music Box’s A Man Called Ove, Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration, continued to add locations and lure audiences, grossing nearly $370K over the weekend.

Focus Features’ Loving seduced the Specialty box office with a strong opening over the weekend. Directed by Nichols, the Cannes ’16 debut grossed $169K in four Los Angeles and New York locations for a $42,250 per theater average — the year’s fifth highest PTA debut after Moonlight ($100,519), Don’t Think Twice ($92,835), the re-release of Howards End ($52,568) and The Lobster ($47,563). Focus said Sunday that its exit surveys in both cities were “very strong” with rating scores that were “well above industry norms and consistently in the 90s across diverse audience segments,” playing equally to men and women.

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Focus Features

“Audiences love Loving,” commented Focus’ president, Distribution Lisa Bunnell Sunday when reporting numbers. “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.”

The distributor noted that at the film’s Virginia Film Festival opening night, the state’s governor Terry McAuliffe said that next June 12 will be proclaimed “Loving Day.” The date will mark the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, which nullified bans on interracial marriage in the U.S.

Focus noted that Loving is “on target” with the opening of its 2014 Awards contender The Theory of Everything, which grossed nearly $209K in five theaters in November of that year. It went on to cume nearly $36M. Loving’s edged over Fox Searchlight’s Brooklyn, which opened in November of last year, grossing $187,281 in five locations, for a $37,456 PTA. It went on to garner Oscar nominations and a $38.32M cume. Last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Spotlight also debuted in November 2015. The Open Road release grossed $295K in five initial runs, averaging $59K. The title went on to cume $45.05M.

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

Mongolian documentary The Eagle Huntress had a solid start in its four theater roll-out this weekend. A debut at Sundance in January, the Sony Classics title grossed $53,848 in four locations, averaging $13,462. SPC co-president Michael Barker touted the feature’s launch Sunday.

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Sony Pictures Classics

“We’re off to a major start. The word-of-mouth is great and the reviews couldn’t be better,” said Barker. “The setting in Mongolia is spectacular. It’s like watching a David Lean movie. It’s something fresh and new.” Barker added that the feature is getting good traction on the Awards front not only in the documentary category, but also for cinematography. He also said that the title is a contender for Best First Feature categories awarded by various critics groups. Sony Classics will take The Eagle Huntress to an additional eight to ten cities this coming week.

Bollywood feature Ae Dil Hai Mushkil grossed $800K in 296 locations in its second frame, six fewer than in its debut. The FIP release averaged $2,703 this weekend. In its debut, the directed by Karan Johar and starring Ranbir Kappor and Anushka Sharma grossed $2.135 million in 302 theaters, giving it a $7,070 PTA. Its two-week cume is now over $3.63 million.

Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop documentary Gimme Danger played an additional 58 theaters in its second weekend grossing $119K, averaging $1,951. The Amazon/Magnolia release opened in three theaters last weekend grossing just over $44K in three locations, averaging a solid $14,675. Gimme Danger has cumed $174,229.

China Lion’s Mr. Donkey appears to have galloped ahead with a small expansion in its second frame. The Chinese feature grossed $76,185 in 24 theaters, averaging $3,174. Said China Lion Sunday: “We’re pleased to see that the word-of-mouth is indeed getting around, as we added only a few locations but expect to fall around only 12% over last weekend when the final box office comes in.”

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A24

A24’s Moonlight landed 11th in the overall box office as of Sunday morning, grossing a sizzling $1,332,414, averaging $16,053, the weekend’s third best PTA behind debuts Loving and Doctor Strange ($21,893). The company added 47 runs over last weekend, playing in just 83 locations, while the top 10 movies this weekend had runs in the thousands. Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight’s three week cume is just over $3 million.

“The film continues to be the best performing limited platform release this year while generating incredible and passionate responses from audiences everywhere,” said A24 Sunday when reporting numbers. “The overwhelmingly glowing critical praise and word of mouth is also translating to rarefied holdover performances, with many theaters going up in box office from last weekend.” A24 said it will add more locations in the coming weeks.

Pure Flix’s I’m Not Ashamed should top $2 million in the coming week. The title grossed $110K, averaging $839 in 131 theaters — 385 fewer from last week. I’m Not Ashamed grossed $440K in 516 locations last week, averaging $853.

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Lionsgate

Lionsgate added 19 theaters for American Pastoral in its third weekend. It grossed $82K, averaging $1,171. Last weekend, the title grossed $86K, averaging $1,686. The feature’s three-week cume is almost $419K.

The Handmaiden played 99 locations over the weekend, 23 more than a week ago. Directed by Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, it grossed $280K, averaging $2,828. Last week, the Amazon/Magnolia release grossed $334,282 ($4,398 average). The Handmaiden’s three-week cume is now $908,238.

Music Box’s A Man Called Ove continues to show momentum while adding theaters in its sixth weekend. Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration, the title grossed $369,571 in 166 theaters, averaging $1,250. Ove grossed $345K in 150 locations last weekend, averaging $2,300.

Noted Music Box Sunday: “With [PTA] down only 9% and a net screen gain of 10%, this solidifies its status as the arthouse sleeper hit of the fall as it continues its impressive holdover” performance. The company said the title will continue to add locations next Friday and expects A Man Called Ove to reach $3 million in box office through its release.

NEW RELEASES

The Charnel House (Freestyle Releasing) NEW [10 Theaters] Weekend $3,430, Average $343

The Eagle Huntress (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $53,848, Average $13,462, Cume $68,810 (Wed. Open)

Loving (Focus Features) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $169K, Average $42,250

RETURNING/SECOND WEEKEND

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (FIP) Week 2 [296 Theaters] Weekend $800K, Average $2,703, Cume $3,636,565

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Amazon/Magnolia

Gimme Danger (Amazon/Magnolia Pictures) Week 2 [61 Theaters] Weekend $119K, Average $1,951, Cume $174,229

Mr. Donkey (China Lion) Week 2 [24 Theaters] Weekend $76,185, Average $3,174, Cume $211,187

HOLDOVERS / THIRD+ WEEKENDS

American Pastoral (Lionsgate) Week 3 [70 Theaters] Weekend $82K, Average $1,171, Cume $418,865

The Handmaiden (Amazon/Magnolia) Week 3 [99 Theaters] Weekend $280K, Average $2,828, Cume $908,238

I’m Not Ashamed (Pure Flix) Week 3 [131 Theaters] Weekend $110K, Average $839, Cume $1,949,879

Moonlight (A24) Week 3 [83 Theaters] Weekend $1,332,414, Average $16,053, Cume $3,087,112

The Uncondemned (Abramorama) Week 3 [2 Theaters] Weekend $3,052, Average $1,526, Cume $13,804

Certain Women (IFC Films) Week 4 [135 Theaters] Weekend $168,750, Average $1,250, Cume $724,750

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The Orchard

Christine (The Orchard) Week 4 [40 Theaters] Weekend $37,734, Average $943, Cume $162,380

Desierto (STX Entertainment) Week 4 [102 Theaters] Weekend $130K, Average $1,275, Cume $1,827,287

Denial (Bleecker Street) Week 6 [218 Theaters] Weekend $288,423, Average $1,323, Cume $3,577,579

Harry & Snowman (FilmRise) Week 6 [20 Theaters] Weekend $32K, Average $1,600, Cume $364,201

A Man Called Ove (Music Box Films) Week 6 [166 Theaters] Weekend $369,571, Average $2,226, Cume $1,864,547

The Dressmaker (Broad Green Pictures) Week 7 [45 Theaters] Weekend $51,254, Average $1,139, Cume $1,813,973

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (Abramorama) Week 8 [40 Theaters] Weekend $25,499, Average $637, Cume $2,810,526

Greater (Hammond Entertainment) Week 11 [5 Theaters] Weekend $3,415, Average $683, Cume $1,976,213

Hell Or High Water (CBS Films/Lionsgate) Week 13 [144 Theaters] Weekend $80K, Average $556, Cume $26,855,601

Don’t Think Twice (The Film Arcade) Week 17 [12 Theaters] Weekend $15,096, Average $1,258, Cume $4,386,949