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The Morning Fix: 'Smurfs' up! Funny Girls. Greenblatt speaks.

August 1, 2011 |  6:50 am

After the coffee. Before figuring out if I can raise my debt ceiling.

The Skinny: The week ahead will see the big broadcast networks and cable channels parade their stars and executives before critics and reporters. In other words, I'll be schmoozing this week. Headlines Monday include the surprising strength of "The Smurfs" at the box office, old headaches for Rupert Murdoch could become new again and how women have dominated the comedy box office his summer.

Blue wave. Heading into the weekend, the anticipation was that the Jon Favreau-directed, Steven Spielberg-produced "Cowboys & Aliens" would shoot up the competition. After all, like chocolate and peanut butter, it was a combination of two classics. Alas, it went down more like chocolate and mayonnaise. While "Cowboys & Aliens," which stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, took in $36.2 million, that was only good enough for a first-place tie with with "The Smurfs." The weekend's other big opening -- romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love" -- took in $19.3 million. Over 70% of the movie's audience was over the age of 25. In other words, it's what people with brains went to see. Box office analysis from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

Greenblatt's challenge. Bob Greenblatt, NBC's head of entertainment, will preview the network's prime time lineup for television critics over the next two days at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. In one of the first major interviews since taking the post earlier this year, Greenblatt talks to USA Today about trying to create shows that will appeal to a mainstream audience yet at the same time are more like the cutting-edge fare seen on cable.

How much is too much? Are ticket prices keeping you away from the movies? Some industry heavyweights are starting to grumble that theater owners need to lower prices a little, especially in these tough economic times. It's not just 3-D tickets, prices overall have creeped up this summer. The New York Times looks at whether the industry needs to rethink what it charges.

The past keeps knocking. As News Corp. continues to deal with fallout from the phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of its British tabloid News of the World and destroyed the company's big deal for British Sky Broadcasting, old lawsuits in the U.S. may get a new look. The Los Angeles Times looks at some cases where units of News Corp. were sued for behavior considered to be corporate espionage. Meanwhile, CNN host Piers Morgan, a former editor of News of the World, has found himself caught up in the hacking fiasco. More on that from the Wall Street Journal. Also, New York Magazine columnist Frank Rich weighs in with a piece about how News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch uses his media muscle to influence politics here.

Goodbye Versus. As had been expected, NBC is moving ahead with plans to rename its sports channel Versus. The Philadelphia Inquirer, hometown paper of NBC parent Comcast Corp., says Versus will now be known as NBC Sports Network. Well, it's not the  most stimulating name in the world but at least it is clear, which was one of the knocks with Versus.

New friends. Business news giant Bloomberg is in talks with Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed about launching an Arabic-language business cable channel, according to Arabian Business. What makes this pairing interesting is that Alwaleed is the second-largest shareholder in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and teaming up with Bloomberg may have some questioning why he wouldn't do it with Fox Business.

Grounded! The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences wants to clamp down on the number of Oscar-related parties during awards season. No, this isn't out of concern for the amount of boozing going on. This is about parties being used as de facto vote-getting efforts. Details from the Hollywood Reporter.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: This summer, women have proven they can be as raunchy as men and bring in big box office.

-- Joe Flint

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