'Beauty and the Beast' Producers Board Sci-Fi Thriller 'Punch Escrow' (Exclusive)

James Bobin ('The Muppets') is directing the adaptation for Lionsgate.
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David Hoberman (left) and Todd Lieberman

David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman of Mandeville Films/TV, the duo behind the billion-dollar-grossing Beauty and the Beast live-action remake, have boarded Lionsgate's adaptation of The Punch Escrow, the debut novel of Tal M. Klein.

The movie reunites the duo with James Bobin, who is on board to direct the sci-fi thriller and who worked with them on Disney's 2011 musical comedy The Muppets.

Set in the year 2147, Punch Escrow tells of Joel Byram, who lives a normal life, spending his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human — until the day he's accidentally duplicated while teleporting. Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.

The book hails from rising tech company and publisher Inkshares, which published the tome July 25 via its Geek & Sundry imprint. Lionsgate won a heated war for the rights in April.

"Tal has crafted such a uniquely vivid world that compels us to ask critical questions of our own about our relationship with technology," Lieberman said Thursday in a statement. "And he does it with such ease, accessibility, and humor that you leave the read feeling educated, emotionally moved and highly entertained all at the same time."

Hoberman and Lieberman were executive producers on Lionsgate's Divergent movie series and are prepping for a busy fall season. The duo have the Boston Marathon bombing drama Stronger, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, set to open Sept. 22. That will be followed by the Nov. 17 release of Wonder, an adaptation of the R.J. Palacio book starring Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay.

Beauty and the Beast, which was released in March and starred Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, grossed over $1.2 billion.

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