Box Office: Melissa McCarthy’s “Identity Thief” blows up, Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” doesn’t

The best estimates, the BEST, put “Identity Thief” as a robust $23-25 million opening weekend.

Melissa McCarthy isn’t a big star yet, has no track record for opening comedies. Jason Bateman has never been big box office on his own terms.

But credit marketing or pent-up comic demand or whatever, “Identity Thief” exploded Friday -- bigger than “Bridesmaids” — and could clear $30 million this weekend, if the Northeastern blizzard and the word of mouth don’t dampen enthusiasm for it.

Marketing? This thing was ad-blitzed to death. Universal knew it wasn’t going to earn stellar reviews, but it did not hide the film from critics. It merely slapped an embargo on it so that the bad word wouldn’t leak out until Thursday.  Unlike “Parker” and “Last Stand,” it wasn’t stamped “dog” before release because the studio was plainly scared of reviews.

“Side Effects,” which has Steven Soderbergh closing down this phase of his movie-making career, is already taking a bigger blizzard hit — my interpretation. A sophisticated thriller that should play well in the NY/Boston corridor, it’s only on pace to hit $8 million.

“Identity Thief” is low comedy and playing well everywhere.

“Warm Bodies” is still making cash, over $9.

“Top Gun” didn’t crack the top ten, in limited 3D IMAX re-release.

“Bullet to the Head” lost half its weak opening weekend audience, and “Hansel & Gretel” could sneak over $50 million by next weekend.  “Mama” is on pace to hit $70-75.

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