By Josh Rottenberg
Updated December 28, 2010 at 07:19 PM EST
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Seen any good movies lately? Well, maybe, if you happen to live near a theater playing one of a handful critically acclaimed smaller releases now playing, like The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Black Swan, Rabbit Hole, or 127 Hours. But if you’ve gone to your local multiplex to take in one of the major studios’ splashy, big-budget year-end movies, you may have come away feeling pretty bah-humbug about the experience. It’s hard to remember any holiday season in which Hollywood has decked the halls with this much high-gloss dreck. And for a slew of would-be blockbusters, from The Tourist to Gulliver’s Travels to Little Fockers to How Do You Know to Yogi Bear and on down the list, scathing reviews have been reflected in subpar box office receipts. As a result, Hollywood’s total box office haul has fallen below last year’s for seven straight weeks.

One group of people getting the message loud and clear? Studio executives. One high-ranking studio exec tells EW, “I think what we’re seeing at the box office is more a testament to the quality of the overall slate of releases than anything else,” adding with a grim laugh, “I mean, if I were a projectionist, I’d want to shoot myself.” Another exec sums up the last couple of months in a single word: “Painful.”

With 2010 just about in the books, and a 2011 slate that includes Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Captain America, J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, Green Lantern and new installments of Pirates of the Caribbean, Pixar’s Cars, Harry Potter, The Hangover, and Transformers, let’s hope thoughts of a prosperous (and painless) new year keep projectionists from doing anything too rash.

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