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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

'The Help' retains top spot in slow box office weekend

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "The Help" remained Hollywood's top draw with $14.3 million on a slow late-summer weekend whose business was even more sluggish as many East Coast theaters closed to ride out the storm there.

Irene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Sunday, but the weekend already was a lost cause for many theaters in its path. Studio executives estimate that about 1,000 theaters shut down for at least part of the weekend and that business may have been off 15 to 20 percent because of the storm.

"It was a wild weekend," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution at Disney, which released DreamWorks Pictures' "The Help." "All things considered, to kind of come out with business down only 15 to 20 percent is something to be pretty thankful for."

"The Help" has been the No. 1 film for two straight weekends. The acclaimed adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel about black Southern maids sharing stories about white employers amid the civil-rights movement raised its domestic total to $96.6 million and should cross the $100 million mark Tuesday.

Late August often is a dumping ground for movies with slim commercial prospects, and Irene cut even further into receipts for the weekend's three new wide releases.

Zoe Saldana's action tale "Colombiana," released by Sony, opened in second-place with $10.3 million. Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes' horror story "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," a FilmDistrict release, debuted in third with $8.7 million. Paul Rudd's comedy "Our Idiot Brother," distributed by the Weinstein Co., premiered at No. 5 with $6.6 million.

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NYSE to open on time

NEW YORK (AP) -- The opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange will ring on time today.

The operators of the historic Big Board and other major U.S. exchanges said they plan to open for trading as usual. The announcements came after city officials said damage from Tropical Storm Irene wasn't as severe as feared in New York's financial district.

It wasn't clear Sunday afternoon whether the city's subways and buses would be running normally in time for this morning's commute, and flooding and downed trees were obstructing tracks throughout the major commuter rail systems that bring workers into town from the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey suburbs. The world's biggest transit system was shut down ahead of the storm.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg lifted the evacuation order for downtown Manhattan, effective 3 p.m.

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Blood thinner performs well

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Developers of an experimental drug that's part of a new generation of anticlotting medicines expected to be blockbusters said Sunday that in a key patient study, apixaban significantly cut the risks of stroke, major bleeding and death.

Drugmakers Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said the 18,201-patient, late-stage study of apixaban found that compared with the popular blood thinner warfarin, apixaban reduced risk of stroke and dangerous blood clots by 21 percent. It reduced major internal bleeding by 31 percent and risk of death by 11 percent, the companies said.

Pfizer and Bristol-Myers, both based in New York, presented results of the international study Sunday at a conference of European heart specialists in Paris.

The companies jointly tested and developed the drug. They plan later this year to apply for U.S. approval to sell it. The highly anticipated study, known by the acronym ARISTOTLE, will be a key part of the research data supporting that application.

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Big plans for Ocho Rios

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- Jamaica's government says it will spend $21 million to renovate the popular resort town of Ocho Rios on the Caribbean island's northern coast.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says $11.7 million will be used to build an artisan village where visitors can buy locally made items. He says the remainder of the money will go toward physical improvements including weekly maintenance of street drains.

The government's statement says the improvements will be made over a five-year period.

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