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The Comedy Box Office King

Spring is a time for the movie studios to put out their films that don’t quite fit as summer blockbusters and also don’t really belong with the more dramatic fare of the fall. That means plenty of family films and comedies will be released around this time, with each one dueling for the top spot at the box office. There have been some big earners in the comedy genre recently, though one was a fairly big surprise.Actress Melissa McCarthy’s career has really taken off in the last two years, as she went from the well-rated sitcom “Mike and Molly” to a movie star in just a few month’s time. Somewhere in between, she managed to earn an Emmy for her work on the sitcom and hosted “Saturday Night Live,” for which she got glowing reviews. When it was announced that her next movie, “Identity Thief,” would be released on February 8, 2013, everyone expected that it would be box office gold and stay in the theaters well into the spring.Those who predicted this were right on both counts, as the film grossed a whopping $47 million in its opening week, far surpassing all other films released around the same time. In its second week, it fell nearly 32 percent for a total tally of nearly $80 million over two weeks. This is actually a very small fall for comedies, which regularly earn half or less in the second week of release compared to the first week. This signaled to Hollywood that the film had staying power, which is why it was still in over 700 theaters nationwide by the second week of April.The film, released by Universal, stars McCarthy as a slightly unhinged and lonely woman named Diana who steals the identity of Sandy (Jason Bateman), a mild-mannered accountant who is trying to buy a house now that his wife Trish (Amanda Peet) is expecting their second child. They have outgrown their current home, and Sandy is relying on a move to a new job and the resulting bump in pay in order to qualify for the new home. Unfortunately for him, Diana’s use of his identity is ruining his credit and is about to get him fired. He takes it upon himself to track Diana down, resulting in a cross-country trip full of chaos and laughs.”Identity Thief” was expected to do well because of the star power of McCarthy and Bateman, so it was a bit of a surprise when “The Croods,” released on March 22, 2013, took in more money on its opening weekend. It opened to a shocking $62 million, which was far beyond the expectations of nearly everyone involved with the film. It stars the voice of Nicolas Cage as Grug, the father of a group of cavemen who stay in their cave at all times because Grug is paranoid that a prehistoric animal will kill them all. When his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) leaves the cave out of boredom, the family must follow and try to stay alive after their cave is destroyed.”The Croods” fell around 32 percent in its second week, which is very similar to the drop that “Identity Thief” experienced in its second week. It was still a strong performer though, and after just three weeks at the box office, it took in nearly $145 million domestically, which means that it has now recouped its very expensive $135 million budget. By the time all is said and done, it is sure to make a tidy profit for studio DreamWorks because it has something that “Identity Thief” does not-merchandise. After overseas receipts and doll and action figure merchandise monies are counted, “The Croods” will likely be the undisputed spring box office comedy king.For now, “Identity Thief” has the higher overall tally, so it is technically the comedy box office winner of the season. Of course, it has had more than a month longer in movie theaters and had a smaller opening weekend. Once “The Croods” has been out a few more weeks, it should easily overtake that tally. A good argument could be made for either movie; it really just depends on the perspective of the person who is looking at the numbers. Either way, both films were a nice shot in the arm for their respective studios during a period that is not known for getting such high numbers at the box office. Now both Universal and DreamWorks can go into the summer season with a little extra cash on hand in case one of their films doesn’t quite meet its earning goals.