So this is where "Twilight" has brought us, folks.

Over the weekend, a full-blown bidding war erupted over the novel "50 Shades Of Grey," which makes sense if you're just thinking of it as part of the genre that has made "Twilight" such a success.  After all, the word is that author E.L. James essentially wrote this as a non-supernatural answer to that series.  Universal and Focus Features ended up the winner when the smoke cleared... but now what?

Obviously, Hollywood is starting to wake up to the notion that women aren't just "another" demographic to chase, but could be even more significant than the overserved fanboy culture that's been so roundly serviced by the studios for the past decade.  While I know there are plenty of young women who enjoy fantasy and science-fiction and action and all those things, there are many young women (and older women, of course) who have been ignored by the studios for quite some time, offered limp romantic comedies as the only real nod to them as a group.  

This weekend's remarkable opening gross for "The Hunger Games" adds further fuel to the fire, and it's proof that you can build a mega-movie around a strong female protagonist and you can open just as big as any of the boy movies.  Bigger, even.  My question, though, is how do you chase this audience as a studio without insulting them, and that's going to be hard for studios that just aren't used to thinking about this sort of thing.

I'm not surprised that a self-published romance novel that has developed a major following would become a hotly-sought-after property in this business environment, but I am surprised that a story about a romantic relationship defined by S&M would turn into the sort of thing that a studio would lay out $5 million for.  I can't imagine that there's any way to turn this into a PG-13 film, and that's the sweet spot for these films.  You want to reach out to as large an audience as possible, and yet this is a project that deals very explicitly with the dynamics of sex between a couple.

Here's my other concern:  sex is not something that Hollywood does well.  Sure, they know how to do the standard tasteful sequence with a few shots of clenched hands and rumpled sheets and tastefully lit bare body parts, but they don't do well at actually exploring the realities of sex and the mechanics of it, and it sounds like that's exactly what "50 Shades Of Grey" is about.

In the book, the first of a trilogy, recent college graduate Anastasia Steele enters into a relationship with a billionaire tycoon (who is all of 27 years old) who happens to have an appetite for rough sex.  He wants her to become the bottom to his top, and the book has been reviewed repeatedly as "pornography for moms."  If that's really what it is, it seems like a very pricy gamble for Universal.  Not only do they have to get something right that Hollywood rarely gets right, but they have to do it in a way that won't earn them an NC-17, yet which still satisfies the fans of the book who are going to want to see these scenarios played out onscreen.  Then again, Focus Features is one of the few arms of a studio that actually has experience releasing an NC-17 film.  I'm sure they want the box-office on this to be bigger than the returns on "Henry & June" or "Lust, Caution," though.

The $5 million pricetag evidently covers all three books in the series by E.L. James, and again… that's awfully ambitious.  If they pull off the first one, they'll be in great shape for the sequels, but if they don't, it's going to end up being an expensive albatross for a studio that has taken some big damage on some pricey gambles in the last few years.  The thing is, you can't make this for the sort of money that Sony sunk into their "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" adaptation, and looking at the way they're already having to back off of the idea of David Fincher helming all three films, it's obvious that there are much larger risks with an R-rated franchise that deals with explicit and uncomfortable subject matter.

I admire the ambition, and I like that studios are starting to have to think outside the box in chasing this audience that they just realized they've been ignoring, but I'm not sure this is a step in the right direction.

We shall see.