SATURDAY 11:45 PM, 7TH UPDATE: Well, Winter Storm Nemo raged over the Northeast Friday but box office stayed really solid. Despite movie theaters closed by nightfall and venues with lost power. Even though Northeast governors shut down all road traffic and imposed fines and even jailtime. That could have been terrible news for this weekend’s two major openers but wasn’t. Now for the dig out. Both Universal’s frenemies comedy Identity Thief and Open Roads Films’ Steven Soderbergh crime thriller Side Effects scored middling ‘B’ CinemaScores which won’t help or hurt word of mouth. Yet grosses went up double digits – +35% and +52% respectively from Friday to Saturday for the pair. True, this weekend’s total moviegoing is only $100M which is down a disappointing 45% from last year.

Even so I’m astonished that weekend trends showed incredibly strong numbers for Identity Thief (originally in 3,141 theaters) with $11.2 million Friday and $15 million (+35%) Saturday trending for $36M this weekend. Despite (or because) it was critically panned as derivative drivel, the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman comedy is doing fantastic box office in nation’s center (which Hollywood derides as ‘flyover’ country). ”Everyone says Identity Thief is really good – even when it gets formulaic,” a rival exec admitted to me. And it only cost $35M, claims the studio. It’s even beating McCarthy’s Bridesmaids opening numbers - $26.2M weekend from 2,918 theaters on May 13, 2011. Of course, that Universal movie went on to do a huge multiple for the studio which would be happy with 3x now.

Identity Thief is doing 1/3 better than tracking predicted — and it was tracking well before the storm. Led initially by females, awareness and interest spread out to men, helped by 2 spots around the Super Bowl this past Sunday. But why Hollywood keeps making this story every decade is beyond me – 2003′s Bringing Down The House with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin, 1992′s HouseSitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. This one reteams Batemen with his Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon, and it’s McCarthy’s first starring role since Bridesmaids which earned her an Oscar nomination. Identity Thief was produced by Scott Stuber, Pam Abdy and Bateman who pitched Stuber the idea while they were working together on Couples Retreat. They originally developed the film for two male leads, but then they saw McCarthy in Bridesmaids and adapted the co-lead role for her with more physical comedy. Overseas, pic opens day and date in Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Taiwan and continues rolling out abroad beginning February 21st.

#3 is last weekend’s winner, Summit Entertainment’s zombies rule comedy Warm Bodies, which grossed $3.2M Friday and $5.4M Saturday for maybe $11.7M after its big $25.1M opening a week ago. New cume is $36.8M.

#3 is Side Effects  (originally 2,605 theaters) opening with $2.8M Friday and $4.2M Saturday (+52%) for a $9.4M weekend. Open Road, underwritten by both AMC and Regal, claims it will make a profit at that result even with a production budget of $30M and a marketing spend of $20M. Open Road in January 2012 pre-bought the U.S. rights to Side Effects which was financed by Endgame Entertainment. Pic’s producers are Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Gregory Jacobs, and Scott Z. Burns who is also the screenwriter. With a marquee director in Steven Soderbergh and a marquee cast in Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, it’s perplexing why pic didn’t do better at the box office. Obviously, kicking off the publicity campaign with a New York Times piece doesn’t mean anything anymore. Rooney Mara even appeared on the cover of Vogue and Interview Magazine. But the hip stayed home. The trailer launched on November 2nd with Flight and the media campaign was focused on adults 18-49. A heavy word-of-mouth screening program included screenings for psychiatric doctor groups accompanied by niche publicity about the psychiatric medicine of the movie. The online campaign kicked off with a viral push for the fictional drug featured in the film. Interestingly, much of the content featured on the film’s website could only be revealed by rollover – alluding to the theme of the film that there is much more beneath the surface. Oh, well.

Warner Bros pushed up the print count to 1,405 for its Best Picture Oscar lead contender Argo in its 18th week to jump back into the Top Ten Films for a $2M weekend and $123.2M cume. And Paramount’s Top Gun reissued in 3D IMAX (300 locations) rounded out the Top Ten with $2M for the weekend  in support of the Blu-ray debut this month.

Here’s the Top Ten based on weekend estimates:

1. Identity Thief (Universal) NEW [Runs 3,141]
Friday $11.2M, Saturday $15.0M, Weekend $36.0M

2. Warm Bodies (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 2 [3,009]
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $5.4M, Weekend $11.7M (-43%), Cume $36.8M

3. Side Effects (Open Road) NEW [Runs 2,605]
Friday $2.8M, Saturday $4.2M, Weekend $9.4M

4. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 13 [Runs 2,809]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend  $6.4M, Cume $89.5M

5. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) Week 3 [Runs 3,285]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $5.7M, Cume $43.8M

6. Mama (Universal) Week 4 [Runs 2,677]
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $2.0M, Weekend $4.2M, Cume $63.9M

7. Zero Dark Thirty (Annapurna/Sony) Week 7 [Runs 2,871]
Friday $975K, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $83.5M

8. Argo (Warner Bros) Week 18 [Runs 1,405]
Friday $565K, Saturday $1.2M, Weekend $2.4M, Cume $123.6M

9. Django Unchained (Weinstein) Week 7 [Runs 1,502]
Friday $560M, Saturday Weekend $2.1M, Cume $154.3M

? Top Gun 3D IMAX (Paramount) [Runs 300]
Friday $535K, Weekend $2.0M

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.