Explaining Southern California's economy

No Hunger (video) Games, please

Opening Night Of Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games"

Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Opening Night Of Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games" at the Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium on March 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

The first installment of the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' blockbuster young adult series "The Hunger Games" opened at midnight. It's expected to break all manner of box-office records, get its studio, Lionsgate, back on track, and inspire fevered debates among parents about whether their kids should be allowed to see a movie about children in a dystopian alternative future killing other children for sport.

From a business point of view, there's a larger question to be asked, beyond the philosophical and ethical ones that have already been addressed: Will "The Hunger Games" inspire massively successful video-game and merchandising tie-ins? And at a deeper level, who would want certain kinds of potentially inevitiable "Hunger Games" video games/merchandising?

The Wall Street Journal has already covered the business case for Lionsgate. It's good but not great. The studio could make around $100 million. But that's just the movies. And a cinematic franchise, as George Lucas discovered when he retained what were in the 1970s thought of as fairly worthless licensing rights. is waaayyy more than the movie now. In fact, you could argue that the film is just a large moving billboard that's seen indoors.