Fox bets on DreamWorks’ ‘Robopocalypse’

Studio puts up co-production coin for Spielberg pic

Not flinching after missing with “Cowboys & Aliens,” DreamWorks is doubling down on original sci-fi summer fare with “Robopocalypse” and — just as with its $160 million-plus genre mash-up — has lined up outside money to hedge the bet.

The biggest differences this time: Instead of Jon Favreau, they’ve got Steven Spielberg.

And instead of Universal/Relativity sharing the risk, DreamWorks is going halfsies with 20th Century Fox.

Disney will distribute “Robopocalypse” domestically through its Touchstone label, while Fox will handle international territories. The companies will share equally in worldwide theatrical revenues from the day-and-date release and will unspool the pic over the July 4 weekend in 2013 — one week earlier than Warner Bros.’ robots-vs.-aliens pic “Pacific Rim.” The dating is doubly interesting, given that sources close to “Robopocalypse” say Legendary, which set up “Pacific Rim” with Guillermo del Toro, had sniffed around the Spielberg project before it ultimately landed at Fox.

While the idea of Spielberg directing a futuristic summer tentpole about robots seems like a sure bet — prompting some to question why DreamWorks would give away a piece of the profit pie — the company has typically lined up a studio partner on big-budget productions.

Fox and Spielberg have a film relationship dating back to 2002’s “Minority Report,” which grossed nearly $300 million worldwide, and more recently through 20th Century Fox TV’s “Terra Nova,” which Spielberg is exec-producing with Peter Chernin.

For “Robopocalypse,” Spielberg developed the script along with DreamWorks co-chairman and CEO Stacey Snider. Fox had been aggressively courting the project, enticed by Spielberg’s heft behind an original event film.

“It feels to us, in a world of events, that this is an uber-event,” one exec close to the project says.

Sci-fi epic was adapted from Daniel H. Wilson’s novel by scribe Drew Goddard. n