Entertainment & Arts

Identity Thief makes away with US box office

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy
Image caption Identity Thief follows Bateman as he chases a con artist played by McCarthy

Comedy caper Identity Thief, starring Bridesmaids actress Melissa McCarthy, has defied critics and blizzard conditions to top the US box office.

Despite poor reviews, the comedy earned $36.6m (£23m) at the weekend, becoming the biggest release of the year so far.

Last week's top film, Warm Bodies, fell to number two with $11.5m (£7.3m), while Steven Soderberg's Side Effects debuted with $10m (£6.3m).

Ticket sales were 45% lower than the same three-day period last year.

On a weekend which saw most of the north-east coast of America buried in snow, Universal Pictures said poor weather conditions had a big impact on cinema attendance for its film, Identity Theft.

"It took such a chunk out of the business. But we can't control Mother Nature," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution.

Identity Thief "probably could have hit $40m (£25.4m) if it weren't for the weather," he added.

Overall, earnings in the US and Canada were down significantly on the same time last year, when four movies, including a 3D reissue of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, had big openings.

"It's really tough to live up to a weekend like we had last year, said box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "It was sort of a foregone conclusion that this was going to be a down weekend."

Identity Thief, which stars Jason Bateman as a man chasing down a con artist, played by McCarthy, was panned by critics with review website, Rotten Tomatoes giving it one star and a 24% rating.

Andrew O'Hehir from Salon.com said the film reached "impressive heights of laziness and idiocy", while The New York Times' Manohla Dargis simply stated: "We deserve better movies".

Others were more forgiving, such as Scott Bowles from USA Today, who argued the film "manages to make off with just enough laughs to work, thanks to the wondrous McCarthy".

Elsewhere in the chart, the Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook was fourth with $6.9m (£4.4m), while Hansel and Gretel, the special-effects take on the children's fairy tale was fifth with $5.7m (£3.6m).

A 3D release of Tom Cruise's 1986 hit Top Gun pulled in $1.9m (£1.2m) at 300 locations.

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