The results are in for Lions Gate Entertainment's (NYSE:LGF) The Punisher, and they were somewhat disappointing, which led me to some musing about the film business and the individual investor.

Hollywood casts an eternal spell on people, feeding fantasies across the globe via magical spectacles projected to super-sized proportions on silver screens. Almost everyone wants to be an actor, writer, or director (no big desire for the position of gaffer, strangely enough). Unfortunately, the business is a tough one to get into; becoming a mogul is about as realistic as using the lottery system as a retirement mechanism.

But hey, if you can't be a direct participant in the making of celluloid wonders, why not own stock in a company that does? It's fun to be able to tell someone that you own a little piece of The Lion King and the Harry Potter films because Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) are part of your portfolio. Of course, the phrase "little piece" is a monolithic understatement; both of those entities are huge conglomerates with multiple business segments, so the reality is that no individual investor owns any sort of significant portion of the products put out by a major media concern.

It is possible to get slightly closer, however, by investing in a more micro situation where a single film can make or break the outlook for a company's stock. For instance, Metro Goldwyn Mayer's (NYSE:MGM) stock is more likely to gyrate on the performance -- or the perception of the future performance -- of the latest Bond film, or whatever it's releasing at the time. Even the biggies, though, like the Mouse House can have a grand fiasco in a single film, it should be noted -- remember Treasure Planet? And considering the substantial dividend MGM might pay out based on its belief in the future cash flow of its movie slates, a feeling of being a more direct player begins to unfold. (Check out this opinion on that dividend plan, however, to get the darker view of such a move.)

All of which brings us back to this past weekend's release of The Punisher, a film whose source material can be found in the stable of comic books put out by Marvel (NYSE:MVL). Marvel itself should see continued success with the upcoming sequel to Spider-Man, but it's not necessarily going to get a huge boost from the box-office results for its latest adaptation: The Punisher grossed only $14 million, taking second place behind Kill Bill Vol. 2, which grossed $25 million (finally, a decent debut for a Disney studio, which could use one after its latest disappointment).

These are the reported estimates as of this writing, with the final tallies to come later, but they indicate that Lions Gate won't be roaring over the relative performance of its asset in the marketplace. For a movie starring John Travolta, anything less than $20 million for the opening weekend is lackluster. You can't win them all the time, especially in the capricious business of celluloid distribution.

The Punisher reportedly had a budget somewhere north of $30 million and a marketing scheme worth around $20 million. That puts a lot of pressure on the picture to perform in the upcoming weekends -- and, frankly, unless this has sleeper potential, it's going to have to rely on ancillary streams like DVD sales and television distribution to recoup the investment.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney.