Morning Fix: ‘Help’ on top. Rupert sells the ranch. D23 delivers.


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After the coffee. Before the return flight to Los Angeles.

The Skinny: Spent the weekend in Washington, D.C., visiting family. Happy to report August weather is the same as it was when I was kid -- hot and humid with a chance of thunderstorms! No matter my whereabouts or the weather, you still get your news, which today includes stories about the weekend box office, Wendi Murdoch’s side business, Disney’s D23 fest and Patrick Goldstein’s take on ‘The Help.’


‘The Help’ needs no help. The drama ‘The Help’ about the relationships between black maids and their white employers in Mississippi in the early 1960s, took the top spot at the box office this past weekend. The movie, based on a best-selling book, took in $20.5 million. That’s a drop of only 21% from the previous weekend. ‘The Help’ easily beat the debut of ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ which may be retitled ‘Conan the Meek’ after making just $10 million. That was way off what from what was projected by so-called box office experts. Also premiering was ‘Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D,’ which took in S12 million, making it the hot new movie of the weekend. Box office coverage from the Los Angeles Times, Deadline Hollywood, and Movie City News.

Caveat emptor. Bids for the online video site Hulu are expected Wednesday. The company, whose owners include Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and Comcast, are shopping the popular site. However, while lots of companies are kicking the tires -- Google, Yahoo, DirecTV, Dish Network -- how many will really want to buy it remains to be seen. The big issue is how long and at what price will the parent companies provide their content to Hulu once they no longer have a stake in it. A look at the situation from the Wall Street Journal.

Saturation. The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is upon us and television is going into overdrive to commemorate the event. Unfortunately, as Variety columnist Brian Lowry notes, subtlety is not the medium’s strong point and there is a risk of ‘trivializing the event.’ Writes Lowry: ‘By dissecting the day from every conceivable angle -- CNN alone has scheduled four documentaries; National Geographic Channel will devote a full week to it -- the resulting din has become a noise-cancelling exercise.’ Advertisers, says Advertising Age, are also trying to figure out how to cash in on the coverage without being tacky. Good luck with that. As one who worked downtown across the street from the World Trade Center back then at a different newspaper, a quiet reflection accompanied by Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Into the Fire’ and ‘The Rising’ is all I will require.

The place to be. Did you make it to Disney’s hypefest known as D23? If not, here is a look at everything you missed at the company’s in-house version of Comic-Con, including the lowdown on new Pixar movies and the Muppet film from Vulture.

Stop the presses! As if there needed to be another indictment of how trivial television news has become, the Hollywood Reporter looks at how broadcast and cable news outlets covered the wedding of Kim Kardashian. Lets just say the word ‘ignore’ doesn’t seem to have been used in this case.

Bet the ranch. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch isn’t totally distracted by the phone-hacking scandal eating away at his media empire. While much of his staff battles investigators probing into how the company operates, he quietly sold a family home in Carmel, Calif., for $17.8 million. According to the Telegraph, which broke the news, the 80-year-old Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi, motivated the sale. On a side note, if in the unlikely scenario that the hacking debacle brings down News Corp. or knocks the Murdoch family from power, Wendi has a side career as a jewelry maker she can fall back on, notes the Los Angeles Times.


Get a room already! Are you a high-powered Hollywood player looking for an upscale place to take your mistress without your wife finding out? Then check out the New York Times piece on the oh so classy and discreet Hollywood Sunset Hotel where maître d’hôtel Dmitri Dmitrov stands guard. The Sunset Tower is apparently an obsession for the New York paper. In late 2009, it did a feature on the hotel being the place for movers and shakers and in 2010 it offered up this piece about the hotel’s Christmas cards. Hope the public relations person for the hotel is getting a raise!

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Goldstein has some hard words about ‘The Help.’

-- Joe Flint

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