Alien Vs. Predator Vs. Yu-Gi-Oh!

Whoever wins, we lose nine bucks. Fans of animation and digital effects are going to have a hard time staying away from the multiplex this weekend. Today sees the release of 20th Century Fox’s highly anticipated franchise mixer, Alien Vs. Predator, based on the popular Dark Horse comics, and Warner Bros.’ unleashes an anime TV favorite on the big screen for the first time with Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie.

Alien Vs. Predator (AVP) is favored to annihilate the competition as two successful sci-fi properties come together on film for the first time. Producers are hoping fans of both series will embrace the concept as much as horror aficionados did New Line’s Freddy Vs. Jason, one of 2003’s surprise hits.

Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat), AVP takes place in Antarctica, where a group of scientists use alien eggs to lure predators to an ancient pyramid and end up caught in the middle of the ensuing monster melee. The only cast member from previous outings to return is Lance Henriksen, who plays billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland, the human model for the android Bishop character he played in Aliens.

Bringing the extraterrestrial exhibition match to the screen was the work of effects houses ADI, Cinesite, Moving Picture Co. and Double Negative, working under Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor John Bruno (The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Batman Returns).

Produced by 4Kids Ent., in association with Shueisha, TV Tokyo and Nihon AD-Systems, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie is set after the conclusion of the Battle City Tournament, when an ancient evil spirit named Anubis is awakened deep below the sands of Egypt. Empowered by the Eighth Millennium Item, Anubis is out to destroy our young hero and take over the world. The film is being released in 2,411 theaters nationwide, indicating that Warner Bros. is confident that it can generate the kind of excitement that the first couple of Pokémon movies enjoyed.

The weekend’s other worthy contender is Buena Vista’s The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. The first film, released in August 2001, turned out to be a major sleeper hit, striking a chord with preteen girls and taking in more than $108 million domestically. Based on that success, the studio is opening the sequel in nearly 3,500 theaters, just slightly more than the big-budget Alien Vs. Predator.