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Melissa McCarthy IDENTITY THIEF Box Office: Best Opening Weekend in 2013?

Melissa McCarthy Identity ThiefMelissa McCarthy Identity Thief overperforms; Steven Soderbergh Side Effects disappoints: Box office

Starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, the Seth Gordon-directed comedy Identity Thief grossed an estimated $11.2 million at 3,141 theaters on Friday, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo. That's considerably above expectations. As a result, instead of earning around $25 million over the weekend as some pundits had predicted, Identity Thief is on its way to something closer to $33m-$35 million, depending on the after-effects of winter storm Nemo, which just hit the U.S. northeast. (Photo: Melissa McCarthy Identity Thief.)

For comparison's sake: Seth Gordon's Horrible Bosses, featuring an ensemble cast that included Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell, opened with $9.9 million on its first day out in July 2011. Paul Feig's Bridesmaids, another ensemble comedy featuring eventual Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Maya Rudolph, debuted with $7.8 million in May 2011. And the Jason Bateman / Ryan Reynolds comedy The Change-Up debuted with a mere $4.77 million in August 2011.

Horrible Bosses went on to gross 28.3 million over its debut weekend, cuming at $117.53 million in North America and $209.63 million worldwide. Bridesmaids raked in $26.29 million on its opening weekend, reaching $169.1 million domestically and $288.38 million worldwide. In both cases, the two broad comedies performed quite a bit better in the U.S. and Canada than internationally; expect much the same trajectory for Identity Thief.

A box office bomb in North America, The Change-Up brought in only $37.08 million domestically, in addition to a slightly better $38.36 million overseas for a grand worldwide total of $75.45m.

To date, the best 2013 weekend debut belongs to the Jessica Chastain horror thriller Mama, which grossed $28.4 million in mid-January. Note: Mama had the advantage of Martin Luther King Day's Monday holiday, which surely helped to boost attendance at Sunday evening shows. Either way, Identity Thief should easily surpass Mama's box office booty.

Identity Thief: "Heights of laziness and idiocy"

As the saying goes, If you offer audiences good movies, they'll flock to your theaters. Salon.com's Andrew O'Hehir might disagree with that statement. In his Identity Thief review, O'Hehir wrote: "Considering that it starts out with two distinctive and likable stars and a reasonably promising premise, Identity Thief reaches impressive heights of laziness and idiocy." According to reports, the Melissa McCarthy / Jason Bateman combo performed particularly well in what's called the American Heartland — for those in denial, that is. After all, if the U.S. has a pulse, it's to be found in its urban centers.

Anyhow, whether New York City is the U.S.'s heart or brain or elbow, Identity Thief currently has a 26 percent approval rating and a 4.1/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. Besides Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, the Identity Thief cast includes Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, and John Cho.

Warm Bodies plummets, Steven Soderbergh flops

At no. 2, Warm Bodies is expected to gross less than $10m over the weekend, after plummeting 60 percent on Friday, taking in $3.3m. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer star in the zombie romantic comedy.

Steven Soderbergh's latest — and maybe, maybe not last — movie, the crime thriller Side Effects, scored a highly disappointing $2.8 million at 2,605 locations on Friday. Much like Warm Bodies, Side Effects will fail to reach $10m this weekend, grossing somewhere around $8m.

That would represent a paltry $3,000 or so per-theater average,which is particularly disappointing for a movie featuring Channing Tatum (who had much better luck last year with the melodrama The Vow, opposite Rachel McAdams), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Rooney Mara, Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago; Zeta-Jones was also featured in Soderbergh's Traffic), and two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law.

Soderbergh's action flick Haywire, which also featured Channing Tatum (in a supporting role) and opened with $2.9 million, went on to cume at a measly $18.94m. Side Effects will likely not fare much better.

Rounding out the top five movies this weekend should be David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, with approximately $5.5-6 million ($1.6 million on Friday) and the Jeremy Renner / Gemma Arterton action / fantasy Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters with around $5 million ($1.4 million on Friday).

Melissa McCarthy Identity Thief photo: Universal Pictures.

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