And why is everyone staying away from the theaters? "These are terrible movies -- bad ideas badly made," one anonymous executive told the L.A. Times. And most insiders are indeed down on this season's slate of releases, particularly the glut of openly pessimistic films: "Four Friends," "Ragtime," the non-musical sections of "Pennies From Heaven." But a few observers are disgruntled not so much at the fact that few movies are doing well, but at the amount of industry conversation the attendant lull is causing. Grumbles one executive: "If everybody who was running around talking about how awful the new movies are doing would just go out this weekend and pay to see a film, we'd have a good Christmas season."

While it is undoubtedly heartening for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to find that they maintain their box office potency even in critically maligned films like "Neighbors" and "The Blues Brothers," the former "Saturday Night Live" team now has a new problem. Their late-night television appearances demanded that they be comedians, writers and improvisers, but the Writers Guild doesn't look so kindly on them using at least one of those skills. According to charges filed by "Neighbors" screenwriter Larry Gelbart, Belushi and Aykroyd wrote new dialogue on the set of that film, which, as it happens, was shooting during the Writers Guild strike.