When I was preparing for the "Skyline" panel that I moderated at Comic-Con this year, I visited the Hydraulx studios in Santa Monica, where they showed me a chunk of what they're working on for the film.

At the same time, while I was walking around their studio, they were working on at least two other films.  One was the "Avatar" special edition I just discussed with James Cameron, which was really just a case of Hydraulx finishing some of the FX sequences they had originally worked on for the film, and the other was "Battle: Los Angeles," the Jonathan Liebesman-directed SF action film that is hitting screens in March of next year.

At the time, I talked to the Hydraulx guys, including brothers Greg and Colin Strause, about the idea that they were working on two alien invasion films at the same time, and I asked how they distinguished between the two.  They were very clear at the time that there's not much in common between the films besides the broad strokes, and they were extra-careful to make sure that the work wasn't overlapping in any way.  "Skyline" is a very important film for the studio, since this is the first time they're putting their own money on the line and making something that they developed in-house using their own equipment.  They made the movie for a fraction of what any Hollywood studio would have spent, and they are making it as a way of indulging fanboy fantasies that would be almost impossible to get through the development system.

Over at The Wrap, I read a piece about how Sony is upset over "Skyline" now, and it sounds to me like they're gearing up for a real-world legal battle that I would say is probably a very bad idea.  Here's some of what The Wrap had to say:

"Sony, the studio behind the $100 million alien invasion movie 'Battle: Los Angeles,' is accusing the producers of a similar-themed movie of ripping off equipment and ideas for their lower budget production.

The producers denied the charge to TheWrap and said the issue was really that they had made a low-budget blockbuster that was coming out before Sony's.

Either way, audiences are going to be treated to two aliens-invade-Los Angeles movies in the next six months.

But not if Sony can help it.

Sony sent a letter to Hydraulx, the producers of 'Skyline' and the company that did the special effects for 'Battle,' demanding it cease and desist from using equipment that the studio says it owns.

"'We demand you stop breaching your visual effects agreement,' the letter reads.The letter also says the studio would not have hired Hydraulx to do special effects had it know about the Skyline project."

Based on what I've seen of the two films and what I discussed with the Strause brothers, I don't buy it.  I don't believe the final films will have any more in common than Paramount's dueling UFO-themed films next year, "Super 8" and "Area 51."  Besides, if Sony really wants to play that game, there are other scripts the studio has developed that feature material that is startlingly similar to much of what appeared in the Comic-Con presentation for "Battle: Los Angeles," including a script I worked on that started life as a remake of "Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers," which is also owned by... you guessed it... Sony.

Alien invasion is nothing new on film.  What will distinguish both the Sony film and the Hydraulx film is the way they approach the subject, and I think there's plenty of room for both in the marketplace as long as they actually deliver on what they promise.

The only way to judge that is to let audiences see them, and no court case is going to guarantee either of the films any success.  I hope Sony drops this instead of bulling ahead and trying to crush a film that was made for about 1/100th of what they spent on their movie.

We'll see.

Right now, "Skyline" is set for Nov. 12, 2010, and "Battle: Los Angeles" will be out in March 11 of 2011.

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