Even with two films to go, Lionsgate 's (NYSE: LGF) Hunger Games franchise has already proven a huge winner at the box office so far.
The first Hunger Games, for example, earned more than $691 million in gross ticket receipts last spring, while at the same time serving as a fantastic primer for the remaining films.
And going into this weekend -- only its fifth in the U.S., by the way -- Catching Fire has already garnered more than $735 million worldwide.
It's time to let the ladies shine
But The Hunger Games isn't just setting the stage for Lionsgate's remaining movies.
The series' powerful Katniss Everdeen lead character has also effectively proven to both Disney 's (NYSE: DIS) Marvel and Time Warner 's (NYSE: TWX) DC Entertainment their own superhero films could thrive at the box office with a strong female lead. Sure, Katniss isn't exactly a superhero, but she may as well be judging by her keen sense of morality, deadly skills with a bow, and propensity for protecting the weak.
Now don't get me wrong; there have always been rumblings from fans who've wished Disney and Time Warner would put the same zeal into developing their respective stables of superheroines, much as we've seen with their wildly successful male counterparts so far.
But those rumblings have exploded into a steady roar since The Hunger Games burst onto the scene early last year, and speculation regarding truly great superherione movies seems to have reached a fever pitch.
Here's what's coming next
As it stands, neither Disney nor Time Warner have announced plans for any big-budget stand-alone superheroine films in the near future. But that's understandable considering their respective production schedules need to be secured years in advance.
That said, it appears as though both companies are laying the foundations for such a move as we speak.
Earlier this month, for example, the folks at Time Warner and DC gave fans plenty to chew on when they confirmed 2015's Man of Steel sequel will introduce Fast & Furious actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
And while some have complained Gadot's slim physique may not lend itself well to the coveted part, I'm not too worried. After all, as fellow Man of Steel actress Amy Adams reminded MTV viewers on Thursday, director Zack Snyder has no qualms making sure his heroes look the part -- and Gadot will be no exception.
What's more, you might also recall I made the case last month for Marvel to move forward with solo Black Widow and Lady Sif films. At the time, I also noted while Avengers producer Kevin Feige had confirmed he had spoken with Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson about a spin-off over two years ago, fans have largely endured more talk than action since then.
To Disney's credit, however, in September director Joss Whedon promised a significantly increased role for Johansson's character in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, saying Black Widow "is a huge part of the sequel because you do want to concentrate on the people who don't have their own franchises." If that's not a massive hint at things to come, I don't know what is.
In addition, now that Thor's Jaimie Alexander obviously won't be playing Wonder Woman -- a possibility highlighted by fellow Fool Tim Beyers last month -- that frees her up to continue reprising her role as Lady Sif. Of course, we don't know much about if and when a solo Lady Sif effort could happen, but I can't help but wonder what's already under way given these two recent tweets from Alexander's Twitter feed:
Then again, it could "just" be Avengers: Age of Ultron coming down the pipe, but that could only further solidify the case for another spin-off down the road.
In the end, though, one thing seems sure: Thanks to The Hunger Games, Superhero movies are shifting their focus toward super-powered ladies.
Here's the next step
It's no mystery Lionsgate, Disney, and Time Warner have all made untold millions at the box office, but did you know you could profit, too?
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