Blizzard May Rain on Box-Office Parade of Melissa McCarthy's 'Identity Thief'

The Wrap
Blizzard May Rain on Box-Office Parade of Melissa McCarthy's 'Identity Thief'
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Blizzard May Rain on Box-Office Parade of Melissa McCarthy's 'Identity Thief'

"Identity Thief" should still easily win the weekend box office, but nasty East Coast weather might dampen Melissa McCarthy's coming-out party as a movie star.

"Identity Thief," which will debut Friday in 3,141 theaters nationwide, will be the first starring feature role for McCarthy, who broke out with her turn in Universal's raunchy 2011 comedy "Bridesmaids" and stars in the highly rated TV series "Mike and Molly." She plays the title role, filching the identity of a mild-mannered businessman (Jason Bateman), who hits the road to nab her himself.

One of the year's first comedies, "Identity Thief" is tracking to open at around $25 million, but the bad weather forecast for the weekend could well cut into that. There are varying predictions on the scope of winter storm Nemo, but if the bulk of eastern New England and Canada are deep in snow, it could knock the overall box office down as much as 5 percent, Rocco estimated.

The weekend's only other wide opener is Open Road's Steven Soderbergh pharmaceutical thriller "Side Effects." It stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum and is expected to finish second with around $10 million.

Last week's No. 1 film, the zombie romantic comedy "Warm Bodies," is the best bet for third. Warner Bros. Is hoping it has Best Picture Oscar nominee "Argo" set up for a surge, coming off its string of recent award wins. Ben Affleck's Iran hostage thriller will be in 1,405 theaters this weekend, up from 935 last week, looking to add to its $121 million domestic total after 16 weeks.

Meanwhile, there are some intriguing offerings at the specialty box office

"A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" features Charlie Sheen as a graphic artist whose world falls apart when his girlfriend leaves him. The low-budget indie film marks Sheen's first real film role since 2004's "The Big Bounce."

AMC Theaters is opening "Lost in Thailand," the low-budget and low-brow comedy that has become the highest-grossing Chinese movie ever, on 29 screens.

And finally, Music Box Films is rolling out "Lore," the coming-of-age tale of a young girl in post-war Nazi Germany, in two New York and four L.A. theaters.

Also read: Melissa McCarthy Comedy Pilot Picked Up by CBS; Husband Will Star

Universal has made a habit of scoring with R-rated comedies, and "Identity Thief" looks like a winner. The director is Seth Gordon, who is on a roll and is looking for his third straight $100 million comedy. His first feature, 2008's "Four Christmases," made $120 million domestically. His second, 2011's "Horrible Bosses," made $117 million in the U.S. Those were both distributed by Warner Bros., and this is his first outing at Universal.

"Identity Thief" is similarly broad-themed and could be ideal date night fare. It is generating strong Twitter and Facebook activity, well ahead of "Horrible Bosses," which debuted to $28 million and went to make $209 million worldwide.

Universal has turned more R-rated comedies into box-office hits than any other studio. All the way back in 1999, the studio broke raunchy teen comedy ground with "American Pie," which launched a slew of imitators and made $235 million worldwide.

They're not all big hits. Last year, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd couldn't save "Wanderlust," which opened to $6 million and topped out at $17 million domestically. "Your Highness," and "Paul" flopped in 2011.

"We're willing to take risks," Universal's head of distribution Nikki Rocco told TheWrap Thursday, "and that makes a difference. But they have to be smart risks." The production budget on "Identity Thief" is $35 million, and that's looking like a very smart risk right now.

The payoffs can be considerable. "Bridesmaids" made $288 worldwide and last year, "American Reunion" took in $235 million and "Ted" became the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy ever with $522 million globally.

Also read: 'Ted' Going Out With $300M Bang at Overseas Box Office

Universal's willingness to release R-rated comedies, and their skill at marketing them, has helped attract big name comedy producers and directors like Judd Apatow ("This is 40"), Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") Seth MacFarlane ("Ted") and now Gordon. 

"They like us," Rocco said, "and we know what we're doing with these movies."

The studio seems to have nailed it in terms of slotting "Identity Thief." Besides having the inside track this weekend, it will remain the only true comedy in the market next weekend, when Bruce Willis' "Good Day To Die Hard," the drama "Beautiful Creatures," the romance "Safe Haven" and the animated "Escape From Planet Earth" debut. 

McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcon earlier this week signed on to develop two more comedies at Universal. One is "Cousin Irv From Mars," based on the upcoming book from Bruce Eric Kaplan, and the other is "Michelle Darnell," based on an original character created by McCarthy.

Open Road has the R-rated "Side Effects" on roughly 2,600 screens. Critics have been impressed with the thriller, and it has an 81 percent positive rating at Movie Review Intelligence. Emily (Mara) and Martin (Tatum) are a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily's psychiatrist (Law) has unexpected side effects.

Also read: What Is Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects' About? What You're Not Supposed to Know

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, who teamed with Soderbergh on the 2011 sci-fi thriller "Contagion,' has constructed a plot filled with twists and surprises. That's presented some marketing challenges for Open Road, which has had to walk a thin line between letting moviegoers know what the film's about without tipping the surprises.

Bill Murray and Jason Schwarztman co-star in "Charles Swan," which is directed by Roman Coppola, nominated for an Oscar for his work on the "Moonrise Kingdom" script.

Also read: Why Charlie Sheen Gave Lindsay Lohan $100,000 for Taxes

Indie distributor A24 will open the film at the Angelika theater in New York and Sundance Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.

To coincide with the 3D Blu-ray release, Paramount is re-releasing the 1986 hit "Top Gun" in 300 Imax theaters for a six-day run. The iconic flyboy tale helped kick-start the careers of star Tom Cruise and director Tony Scott.

AMC Theaters is opening "Lost in Thailand," the low-budget and low-brow comedy that has become the highest-grossing Chinese movie ever, on 29 screens.

Also read: 'Lost in Thailand' Has Huge Box Office in China - Will It Translate to U.S.?

As for "Lost in Thailand," though it cost less than $5 million to produce and has taken in more than $201.9 million since its mid-December debut in China. Chinese comedian Xu Zheng directed and stars in "Lost in Thailand."

He plays a scientist who has developed Super Gas and is racing his evil rival (Huang Bo to Thailand to get the approval of his boss. On the flight there, he falls in with a simple Chinese pancake flipper (Wang Baoqiang ) with grand plans for his vacation.

"Lore" is based on "The Dark Room," a 2001 Booker Prize-nominated novel by British author Rachel Seiffert. Saskia Rosendahl stars as the eldest daughter of a mother and father who are staunch Nazis in the film, directed by Australia's Cate Shortland ("Somersault").

 

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