Suck it bitches. Despite storm-shuttered theaters in the Northeast, “Identity Thief” took in a super-sized $36.6 million at the weekend box office, offering a counter example to the widespread belief in Hollywood that smart marketing can’t overcome dismal reviews in the Twitter age. Universal Pictures backed this relatively inexpensive comedy (budget: $35 million) with a deft ad campaign; billboards, for instance, featured a smiling Jason Bateman with the slogan “Is this the face of a sucker?” plastered across his forehead. And audiences responded, overlooking sharply negative reviews. The movie’s increasingly popular female lead, Melissa McCarthy, also helped turn out ticket buyers, particularly in the Midwest, analysts said. Making the film’s large debut even more impressive: Universal estimated that the gigantic winter storm that struck the Northeast on Friday took a 10 percent bite out of sales. “Warm Bodies” (Lionsgate) took second place at North American theaters, selling about $11.5 million in tickets, for a two-week total of $36.7 million, according to Hollywood.com, which compiles box-office data. The thriller “Side Effects” (Open Road) took in about $10 million in its first weekend, for third place. Two hold-overs rounded out the top five: “Silver Linings Playbook” (the Weinstein Company) sold about $6.9 million in tickets, lifting its 13-week total to about $90 million, while “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” (Paramount) took in about $5.8 million, for a three-week total of $43.8 million.
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