LOS ANGELES Identity Thief has turned out to be the real thing at the North American box office.
The comedy starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy debuted at No. 1 with a $34.6 million opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Identity Thief opened solidly despite the winter storm that buried much of the U.S. Northeast. Distributor Universal Pictures estimates the storm might have choked off as much as 10 percent of the movie’s business.
“It took such a chunk out of the business [last] weekend. But we can’t control Mother Nature,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s head of distribution. “We probably could have hit $40 million if it weren’t for the weather [last] weekend.”
The previous weekend’s top movie, the zombie romance Warm Bodies, fell to No. 2 with $11.4 million. That raises its domestic total to about $36 million.
Side Effects, meanwhile, pulled in $9.3 million and attracted a heavily older crowd, as 85 percent of those who saw it over the weekend were over the age of 25. It received a B Cinema Score from moviegoers, even though critics were enamored with the picture. The movie centers on a psychologist (Jude Law) who struggles to find the right medication to treat a depressed patient (Rooney Mara).
Tom Cruise’s 1986 hit Top Gun took flight again in theaters with a 3-D reissue that pulled in $1.9 million in narrow release of 300 theaters. The movie has a short run on the big-screen leading up to its Feb. 19 3-D release on DVD and Blu-ray.
Overall domestic revenues were down sharply from a year ago, when four movies had big openings - The Vow, Safe House, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and a 3-D reissue of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
Receipts totaled $105 million, down 45 percent from the same weekend last year - which was the only nonholiday weekend to have four movies open with more than $20 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
“The same weekend a year ago was such a tremendous weekend,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “It’s really tough to live up to a weekend like we had last year. It was sort of a foregone conclusion that this was going to be a down weekend.”
Identity Thief came in above industry expectations despite the storm and poor reviews for the comedy, which stars Bateman as a man chasing down a con artist (McCarthy) who has racked up thousands of dollars of charges in his name.
The combination of the actors and the premise made it a review-proof comedy, Rocco said.
“I think people just want to be entertained,” Rocco said. “The chemistry between Jason and Melissa is the reason why this picture is doing so well.”
Another film playing in only a handful of theaters, Lost in Thailand, also failed to debut with a splash. AMC released the Chinese-language film - which grossed $201 million in China last year, more than any other movie in the country - in 29 theaters. The Hangover-esque film collected only $29,143.
MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 02/15/2013
Print Headline: Identity Thief gives storm the slip