‘Loving’ Tops Indie Box Office, Poised for Awards Season

Documentary “The Eagle Huntress” takes flight as “Moonlight” holds strong

Focus Features’ historical drama about an interracial couple that found themselves at the center of a Supreme Court case, “Loving,” is No. 1 at the indie box office this weekend.

Playing in both New York and Los Angeles, the film made an estimated $169,000 from four theaters for a per screen average of $42,250. (To put that in perspective, its average beat Disney-Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” the No. 1 grossing movie of the weekend, by a landslide. The Benedict Cumberbatch movie earned $21,893 per screen, albeit from 3,822 North American screens.)

Directed by Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Midnight Special”), the film stars Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon and Marton Csokas. It follows the relationship of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who were arrested and sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for violating interracial marriage laws and later sued the state.

“The story is obviously very timely with the election coming up,” said Lisa Bunnell, president of distribution at Focus, who also cited exit polling in the nineties across diverse audience segments, playing equally well among men and women.

It has a strong 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and expands to 45 theaters next weekend, including Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Toronto.

The movie is also timed for a holiday season roll-out, as well as awards season. “We’re getting it ready for Oscar season,” Bunnell told TheWrap on Sunday.

The film’s opening is in line with past awards darling “The Theory of Everything,” which opened the same weekend in 2014 with a per screen average of $41,753.

Meanwhile, Sony Classics documentary “The Eagle Huntress,” narrated by “Star Wars” star Daisy Ridley, had a strong debut of its own.

Also open in four theaters, it made a total of $53,848 on its debut for a per screen average of $13,462.

It marks director Otto Bell’s first feature-length documentary and is about a 13-year-old Kazakh girl who trains to be the first female in several generations of her family to become an eagle hunter.

The acclaimed film has a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is also an awards season contender.

A24’s critical hit “Moonlight” stood strong, expanding into 47 more locations in its third weekend to earn $1.3 million. The film’s per screen average is estimated at $16,053 and it has grossed a cumulative total of $3.1 million.