By Josh Rottenberg
Updated December 15, 2010 at 06:11 PM EST

Image Credit: Peter MountainIt may be beginning to look a lot like Christmas where you are, but in Hollywood these days, it’s feeling more like the doldrums of January or February than a typical holiday blockbuster season. With the exception of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 and, to a lesser extent, Tangled, no big movies have really connected with wide audiences so far in this critically important period for the studios’ bottom lines. There are several heavyweight contenders yet to come before the year is out, including TRON: Legacy, How Do You Know, Little Fockers, Yogi Bear, and Gulliver’s Travels. But last weekend’s anemic box office numbers, with both the latest film in the Chronicles of Narnia series and The Tourist coming in way below expectations, have deepened the sense of gloom and anxiety in the executive suites of the major studios. “I don’t know if people are at a place where they’re worried for their jobs, but it’s painful,” one high-ranking studio executive tells EW. “It feels like it’s going to be an underperforming Christmas.”

The one piece of good news among all these lumps of coal: the relative dearth of major studio blockbusters has made a number of well-reviewed arthouse movies that have opened in recent weeks shine that much brighter. “The big movies are softer than we would have thought, which is giving the smaller movies more breathing room, whether it’s The Fighter or Black Swan or 127 Hours or The King’s Speech,” says a studio exec. When little movies about ballet dancers and a guy who cuts his arm off are generating more heat than big, shiny holiday offerings from stars like Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, you know there’s something strange in the air.

What do you think of this year’s crop of big holiday-season movies? Does it feel underwhelming to you so far? Which of the upcoming would-be blockbusters are on your wish list, and which ones will you definitely skip?

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