Melissa McCarthy is the hottest name in comedy right now — even hotter than the boys.
With Fox’s “The Heat” scoring an impressive $39 million Stateside debut this weekend, the comedic actress proved she can not only compete in a mostly male-driven genre, she’s capable of dominating it.
“The Heat,” co-starring Sandra Bullock, easily won the weekend’s face-to-face standoff with Sony’s male duo actioner, “White House Down,” which disappointed with $24.9 million. But the comparisons for McCarthy to other comedies and their male stars go much deeper than this weekend’s direct B.O. showdown alone.
Looking at the first few breakout hits for such male stars including Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Jason Bateman, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, and it’s clear McCarthy is doing it better. The first two films in which she starred — “Bridesmaids,” for which she received an Academy Award nomination, and “The Identity Thief” — became hugely successful Stateside, grossing $169 million and $135 million, respectively.
By comparison, Ferrell’s first major film, “A Night at the Roxbury” (1998), earned just $30 million domestically. Ferrell didn’t see his first $100 million grosser until “Elf,” which was released five years later. Rogen’s breakout hit, “Knocked Up,” topped out at less than $150 million in 2007, followed a few months later by “Superbad,” which earned $121 million domestically.
Earlier this summer, Rogen co-directed and starred in Sony’s “This Is the End,” which features a “Who’s Who?” list of hot comedy stars nowadays (excluding McCarthy). While that film opened well with $21 million and has cumed nearly $75 million to date, it still falls behind all three of McCarthy’s top earners at their respective points of release.
Paul Feig, who directed “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat,” expressed frustration at CinemaCon in April over the small number of female-driven projects because of their lack of success internationally.
“I’m desperate to change that,” he said. “I would love to figure it out.”
McCarthy’s role in “Identity Thief” originally was written for a man, but re-written for McCarthy specifically given her recent box office dominance.
As for the ladies, McCarthy is in a class of her own.
In terms of box office performance, no other recent female star (in a comedy) has been able to catch McCarthy’s mainstream appeal, including Tina Fey, Emma Stone and Kristin Wiig, who co-wrote and starred in “Bridesmaids.”
McCarthy, who got her start in television with a recurring role on the hit show “Gilmore Girls,” currently stars in CBS’ “Mike and Molly.” The actress also had cameo roles in recent films including “This Is 40” and “The Hangover Part III,” for which Warner Bros. used her scenes to market the film in its trailers and TV spots.
Just last week, McCarthy wrapped principle production on New Line’s road-trip comedy, “Tammy,” which she co-wrote with her husband Ben Falcone, who also directed the film. Pic is set for release July 2, 2014.