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Melissa McCarthy is officially a comedy mega-star

‘Identity Thief’ cements Melissa McCarthy’s stardom while Side Effects clarifies Channing Tatum’s box office drawing power.

Melissa McCarthy is officially a comedy mega-star. There can be little dispute of that after this weekend. Identity Thief topped the box office this weekend with an astonishing $36.5 million and I’m at a loss to think of any reasons it would do so well aside from Ms. McCarthy.

Jason Bateman is a terrific actor and a fine foil, but he’s box office poison as a lead (The Switch opened with $8.4 million, Extract opened to $4.3 million, and The Change-Up debuted with $13 million). The film’s simple and self-explanatory title, along with the clever expository tagline (“She’s having the time of his life.”) surely helped, as did the lack of any big comedies in the current marketplace. Parental Guidance and This Is Forty are both doing stealthy strong business, with $74 million and $67 million thus far respectively, but this is the first big star comic vehicle in awhile and it delivered in spades.

This was McCarthy’s first big test of her alleged stardom. Identity Thief was completely sold on McCarthy’s new-found stardom. The core imagery was basically her face on the poster, slipping a Slurpee next to a befuddled Jason Bateman. This is a much larger debut than Bridesmaids, the film which catapulted her to fame and proverbial glory back in May, 2011. This is among the ten-best R-rated comedy debuts ever and the fifth-best for a non-sequel. Heck, it opened bigger than the PG-13 Couples Retreat, which had a proverbial whos-who of comedy players (Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, and Kristen Bell) and managed a $34 million debut back in October 2009.

Fox has to be thrilled at the moment, knowing that they have a plausible gold-mine in the Melissa McCarthy/Sandra Bullock action-comedy The Heat waiting in the wings for June of this summer.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos

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