STX, Alibaba Pictures Partner on Robert Zemeckis-Produced Sci-Fi Film 'Steel Soldiers'

Robert Zemeckis - Getty - H 2017
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The film will be set in a futuristic world where humans and androids fight shoulder to shoulder.

Bob Simonds' STX Entertainment is partnering with China's Alibaba Pictures to co-produce Steel Soldiers, an original sci-fi action movie set in a futuristic world where humans and androids battle side by side.

STX is taking U.S. and international distribution rights under the partnership, while Alibaba Pictures will handle the Greater China release.

Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) will produce the movie under his ImageMovers label, along with his partners Jack Rapke (Cast Away, Flight) and Jackie Levine (Allied, The Walk). 

Based on an original screenplay written by Ken Kaufman (The Missing, Space Cowboys), Steel Soldiers follows a disgraced Special Forces officer who is forced to train a new team of high-tech but imperfect android soldiers, turn them into “real” elite military officers and lead them in a deadly mission to rescue the robot's creator.

The partners say there are plans to expand the project onto other platforms beyond the theatrical film release.

There is no word yet on whether Zemeckis may also direct. The partners also haven't revealed whether they intend the film to be a U.S.-China co-production, an official categorization that requires more Chinese creative input, but also yields more lucrative revenue-sharing terms in the Chinese theatrical market.

"We are delighted to partner with STX on Steel Soldiers, a project with global commercial appeal and cross-platform potential,” said Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei.

Added Adam Fogelson, chairman of STXfilms: "Together, we look forward to immersing audiences in the battlefield of the future."

David Styne (Love Means Zero) is also producing on the project. Sheroum Kim, senior vp production, will oversee the project for STXfilms and Shujin Lan-Shuster, senior executive of international productions, will have a supervisory role for Alibaba Pictures.

STX, co-founded by Simonds and Bill McGlashan in 2014, has been stepping up its activity in China recently. The studio released its first China co-production in October, Jackie Chan's The Foreigner, which earned $81.2 million in the Middle Kingdom, $34.4 million in North America and $144.9 million worldwide. STX followed that success with a deal to handle the China distribution of the 75th Golden Globes Awards, as well as a partnership with China's Tencent Pictures to co-develop an action film starring Jason Statham.

Alibaba also has been keeping busy at the start of 2018. On Monday, the Alibaba parent company led a $1.24 billion investment in fellow Chinese entertainment giant Wanda Film, majority owned by Chinese billionaire and occasional Jack Ma rival, Wang Jianlin. Later this year, Alibaba Pictures will release fantasy action film Legend of the Ancient Sword, directed by Beijing transplant Renny Harlin, followed by Asura, a $100 million original fantasy tentpole.