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BERLIN — Take that, Winter Storm Nemo.
Even with moviegoing grinding to a halt in much of the Northeast because of the historic blizzard, Melissa McCarthy–Jason Bateman comedy Identity Thief is outpacing expectations and eyeing a $34.8 million weekend after topping the Friday domestic box office with an expected $11.2 million.
Still, Nemo is rendering usual models useless, and film distributors still don’t know to what degree the historic storm will impact box office grosses through the weekend — or how much Universal’s Identity Thief would have made otherwise.
Numerous movie theaters are closed in New England, with Boston — accounting for about 2 percent of box office grosses — alone buried in nearly 22 inches of snow so far. New York City, by far the biggest moviegoing market in the country, escaped the worst brunt of Nemo.
If Identity Thief surpasses the recent $28.8 million opening of fellow Universal pic Mama, it will score the top debut of 2013.
Directed by Seth Gordon, the Universal comedy marks McCarthy’s first starring role since the breakout comedy hit Bridesmaids (likewise a Universal title), which opened to roughly $26 million in 2011.
Identity Thief stars Bateman as a guy whose identity is stolen by a woman (McCarthy). Bateman originally pitched producer Scott Stuber on the idea of the two leading characters being men, but after seeing McCarthy in Bridesmaids, they adapted the role for her.
The comedy’s supporting cast includes Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau and Tip “T.I.” Harris. Elliot Inc. co-financed the $35 million film with Universal.
Overseas, Universal will open Identity Thief in Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Taiwan this weekend.
Also opening Friday was Steven Soderbergh‘s independently financed Side Effects, starring Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum. The psychological thriller grossed roughly $3 million on Friday, putting it on course for a weekend opening in the $9 million-$10 million range.
Open Road Films is distributing Side Effects, which delves into perils of anti-depressants and the pharmaceutical industry. Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones also star. Next week, the film — which Soderbergh claims will be his last — makes its international debut at the Berlin International Film Festival.
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