BERLIN -- Winter Storm Nemo was no match for Melissa McCarthy.
The actresses' new comedy Identity Thief, co-starring Jason Bateman and directed by Seth Gordon, soared past expectations to score a $36.6 million debut, one of the top five openings of all time for an original R-rated comedy and the top opening so far of 2013, besting the $28 million scored four weeks ago by fellow Universal pic Mama.
Universal estimates that the blizzard, which paralyzed much of New England, took a 10 percent hit on box office grosses and that without Nemo, Identity Thief would have cleared $40 million. The pic marks McCarthy's first starring role since Bridesmaids -- which opened to $26 million -- and was fueled by females, who made up 58 percent of the audience.
Receiving a B CinemaScore, 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.
Even with the success of Identity Thief, overall box office revenues were down 45 percent from the same weekend last year when The Vow debuted to $41.2 million and Safe House, to $40.2 million.
Also opening Friday was Steven Soderbergh's independently financed Side Effects, starring Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum. The psychological thriller opened to $10 million, roughly in line with expectations, and likewise received a B CinemaScore.
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.
Oscar best picture contender Argo made news in its 13th week in release, grossing $2.5 million to reclaim a spot on the top 10 chart as it upped its theater count to $1,405. The film, coming in No. 8, has now grossed $123.7 million domestically.
Here are the full results for the weekend of Feb. 8-10 at the domestic box office:
Title, Weeks in release/theater count, studio, three-day weekend total, cume (*denotes Oscar best picture nominee)
1. Identity Thief, 1/3,141, Summit, $36.3 million
2. Warm Bodies, 2/3,009, Summit, $11.5 million, $36.7 million
3. Side Effects, 1/2,605, Summit, $10 million
4. *Silver Linings Playbook, 13/2,809, The Weinstein Co., $6.9 million, $80.4 million
5. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 3/3,285, Paramount/MGM, $5.6 million, $43. million
6. Mama, 4/2,677, Universal, $4.3 million, $64 million
7. *Zero Dark Thirty, 8/2,562, Sony/Annapurna, $4 million, $83.6 million
8. Argo, 13/1,405, Warner Bros., $2.5 million, $123.7 million
9. *Django Unchained, 7/1,502, The Weinstein Co., $2.3 million, $154.5 million
10. *Lincoln, 13/1,512, Disney/DreamWorks, $1.9 million, $173.6 million