I’m sure that’s the one and only box office-related question on all of your minds today, so I’ll just cut to the chase.
David E. Talbert’s romantic dramedy, which opened on just over 2000 screens nationwide this weekend, grossed $9.3 million. Not spectacular, but, considering that the film’s production budget was a reported $8.5 million, it puts its opening weekend gross into some perspective. 
This, despite the fact that the critics weren’t exactly kind to the film, scaring it with a 14% rating via movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Audience reactions have been much more favorable, however, and ultimately, maybe that’s all that matters. After all, they’re who the film was made for, and they spoke with their dollars.
Now whether word of mouth will be strong enough to carry the film into successive weekends, remains to be seen. Typically, assuming theater counts don’t change dramatically, you can expect second weekend grosses to drop about 50% on average. So taking into account box office receipts during the work week, as well as through the end of next weekend, I’d expect Baggage Claim to have earned somewhere between $15 and $20 million. 
And by the time it leaves theaters (taking into consideration the shortened window between theatrical runs and home video releases), the movie’s total gross will likely be in the $20-something-million range.
Again, not spectacular, but, again, considering the film’s budget, it’ll likely be thought of as enough of a success for Fox Searchlight
Or maybe not…
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that, this is a project that was originally announced 3 years ago with Taraji P. Henson set to star, but Fox Searchlight essentially shelved it when other “black films” the company backed and released didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped. There was the 2010 L.A. Times report (soon after the project was announced) which suggested that Fox Searchlight was “pulling back from its foray into black-themed films.” Why? Well, again, the few “black films” that had been distributed by the studio hadn’t exactly set the box office on fire – namely, Just Wright and Our Family Wedding, each grossing only about $20 million in domestic box office, as well as Notorious ($37 million gross, on an estimated $18 million budget) and I Think I Love My Wife ($13 million domestic earnings on an $11 million budget).

As I noted in a previous post, Fox Searchlight had likely been hoping to recreate some of that Tyler Perry magic that was (and still is) helping to keep Lionsgate happy and in the black.

The article further noted that “while the urban market remains under-served by conventional Hollywood, it’s not an audience that’s easily captured” – a statement that still rings true today, 3 years later.

After the project was rebooted last year, I called it the Think Like A Man Effect. The surprising box office success of that romantic dramedy (it grossed almost $100 million Stateside) likely influenced Fox Searchlight’s decision to revive Talbert’s Baggage Claim, once again, hoping to capture some of the magic of the Will Packer-produced, Tim Story-directed movie. 

And why not, I suppose? The former was based on a bestselling book by a black author, which practically guaranteed it a certain box office premium from the start. The latter (Baggage Claim) is also based on a bestselling book by a black author, although I don’t have access to exact sales figures, so I can’t say how many copes each sold, or make any comparisons between the two – very likely in the millions in both cases.

So it shouldn’t surprise that, given the success of the former, executives at Fox Searchlight were willing to take the risk the second time around. What they expected in terms of box office, isn’t information that I’m privy to. But based on what was apparently their dissatisfaction with box office results for previous “black films” the company released as listed above – films that had about a similar budget-to-box-office-gross ratio – and given the immense success of Think Like A Man (itself also a “black romantic dramedy” with an ensemble cast of familiar black actors), I’d guess that they were probably expecting a more impressive opening weekend tally than what the film did earn.

I should note that Fox Searchlight does have a handful of other “black films” scheduled to debut theatrically over the next 6 to 8 months – the musical drama Black Nativity, directed by Kasi LemmonsAmma Asante’s Britain-set slavery-era drama Belle; and Steve McQueen’s American-set slave drama 12 Years A Slave. Of the 3 films, McQueen’s will likely be the studio’s biggest hit – both commercially and critically.

Might we see a repeat retreat from “black films” by the studio, as we saw in 2010, if these 4 films don’t meet expectations, whatever they are?

By the way, Lee Daniels’ The Butler continues to push above $100 million, adding another $2.4 million to its gross, over the weekend, its 7th in release, bringing its total to just over $110 million.

The top 10 below, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

1 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – $35,000,000 ($35,000,000)

2 Prisoners – $11,270,000 ($38,954,000)
3 Rush – $10,314,000 ($10,574,000)
4 Baggage Claim – $9,300,000 ($9,300,000)
5 Don Jon – $9,000,000 ($9,000,000)
6 Insidious Chapter 2 – $6,747,000 ($69,544,000)
7 The Family – $3,674,000 ($31,696,000)
8 Instructions Not Included – $3,380,000 ($38,567,000)
9 We’re the Millers – $2,865,000 ($142,418,000)
10 Lee Daniels’ The Butler – $2,417,000 ($110,281,000)