UPDATE 1-Comedy 'Identity Thief' back on top of North American box office

Sun Feb 24, 2013 2:42pm EST

LOS ANGELES Feb 24 (Reuters) - Comedy "Identity Thief" snatched the weekend box office title in the United States and Canada during its third weekend in theaters, narrowly beating new action movie "Snitch" as Hollywood focused on Sunday evening's Academy Awards ceremony.

"Identity Thief" starring Melissa McCarthy grabbed $14 million in ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters.

"Snitch" featuring Dwayne Johnson finished close behind with $13 million. The animated offering "Escape From Planet Earth" took in $11 million to finish third in its second week in theaters.

The win was the second for "Identity Thief," which led the charts when it debuted Feb. 8 and finished in second place a week ago. The adult comedy features McCarthy as a woman who steals the identity of a hapless man played by Jason Bateman.

"Identity Thief" has collected $93.7 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters to date.

Moviegoing was typically slow for an Oscars weekend. Total sales for all films ran slightly over $1.4 billion, a 6.6 percent drop from the same weekend last year, according to box office tracker Hollywood.com.

"Snitch" stars Johnson as a father who goes undercover to clear his son to keep him out of jail after he is wrongly accused of drug dealing. Susan Sarandon and Benjamin Bratt also star.

Ahead of the weekend, forecasters saw "Snitch" pulling in $10 million to $12 million. Summit Entertainment, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment, bought U.S. distribution rights for about $5 million.

The weekend's other new movie, low-budget horror flick "Dark Skies," collected $8.9 million to debut in sixth place. The movie stars Keri Russell as a mother working to protect her children from alien invaders.

The film cost $3.5 million to make and was produced by "Paranormal Activity" producer Jason Blum. The Weinstein Company distributed the movie.

Last weekend's leader, "A Good Day to Die Hard," dropped to fifth place. The fifth movie in the Bruce Willis action franchise took in $10 million this weekend.

"Identity Thief" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp. "Snitch" was distributed by Summit Entertainment, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment. The Weinstein Company distributed "Escape From Planet Earth" and "Dark Skies." "A Good Day to Die Hard" was released by News Corp's 20th Century Fox studio.