The movie business has been hungry for a box-office smash for a while now, and it appears that The Hunger Games fit the bill this past weekend. The movie, based on a novel by Suzanne Collins, roared into theaters and raked in $152.5 million in domestic box-office receipts and a total of $211.8 million worldwide.

The film, made by Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF), has gotten rave reviews and had impressive staying power over the weekend. A $19.7 million midnight opening, including $1.3 million at IMAX (NYSE: IMAX) theaters, was far from the most surprising number. On Saturday, the movie grossed $51 million and Sunday $35 million.

Signs of things to come?
After a lackluster year at the box office, the movie industry is hoping that this is just the beginning of a turnaround. And studios haven't even brought out the big guns yet. What The Hunger Games shows is that a good film can still command a big-time audience, and this year has some strong potential.

Disney (NYSE: DIS) has big hope for The Avengers after John Carter flopped at the box office. Sony (NYSE: SNE) is rolling out Men in Black for the third time, introduces a new lead in The Amazing Spider-Man, and releases the 23rd James Bond movie, Skyfall. And Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner, has the highly anticipated Batman flick The Dark Knight Rises among its releases.

I thought the movie business was set up for a strong year before The Hunger Games. If the industry can turn out a few more surprise blockbusters along with solid performances from sequels, we may get back to record-breaking results in 2012. The studios would love it if and IMAX and RealD (NYSE: RLD) were winners in the process. They both get high-margin incremental revenue from the box office in their theaters, so a strong blockbuster season would be great for both.

Grab your popcorn and soda, movie investors. The Hunger Games should just be the start of a profitable year.

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