'Identity Thief' Captures Box Office With Surprising $36.6 Million

Comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman enjoys the largest opening weekend so far this year.

Melissa McCarthy stole the show in "Bridesmaids," and now the comedic actress has snatched the box-office crown in her first big lead role. "Identity Thief" topped the box office with a better-than-expected $36.6 million debut. It was the largest opening weekend for any film of 2013 thus far and one of the biggest ever for an R-rated comedy.

Film critics haven't been kind to "Identity Thief," which stars McCarthy opposite Jason Bateman, but that clearly hasn't kept audiences away. Filmgoers who saw it over the weekend assigned it a CinemaScore of "B." Industry experts had predicted the film would open at #1, but the financial estimates were more conservative (in the $20 million to $30 million range) in light of pre-release tracking and the snowstorms that battered the East Coast.

Steven Soderbergh's well-reviewed "Side Effects" underwhelmed with a $10 million debut. The Oscar-winning filmmaker saw big commercial success with "Magic Mike," but has said he'll soon retire from directing. His 2011 film "Contagion" opened with more than double that amount, though "Haywire" debuted with just $8.4 million.

Last weekend's #1 film, the zombie romantic comedy "Warm Bodies," was #2 with $11.5 million. Oscar contender "Silver Linings Playbook" was #4 with $6.9 million, which puts the movie's total close to $90 million. "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" was #5 with $5.7 million for a $43.8 million domestic total.

Overall, the box office was down over 45 percent versus the same period last year, when both "The Vow" and "Safe House" had bigger debuts than "Identity Thief." Still, the comedy had the best opening for director Seth Gordon (who previously teamed with Bateman on "Horrible Bosses") and probably would have done closer to the $41 million opening of "The Vow" had it not been for the storm nicknamed Nemo, according to Universal Pictures.

Check out everything we've got on "Identity Thief."