Director Ridley Scott surprised many recently when he referred to his next project - the sequel to his Alien quasi-prequel/spinoff, Prometheus - as being titled Alien: Covenant, after having referred to the film as Alien: Paradise Lost on multiple previous occasions. Fortunately, we need not speculate any further, as it's now official: the next chapter in a planned Prometheus film trilogy shall indeed be called Alien: Covenant, with principal photography slated to get underway around the first quarter of 2016 for a 2017 release date.
So far, the only confirmed cast member for Alien: Covenant is Michael Fassbender, who will reprise as the android David - one of only two survivors from the original Prometheus expedition, along with the human scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). However, judging by the newly-released synopsis for the film, it would appear that Covenant doesn't immediately pick back up with Shaw, at the beginning of its story.
Here is 20th Century Fox's official synopsis for Alien: Covenant:
Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created in ALIEN with ALIEN: COVENANT, the second chapter in a prequel trilogy that began with PROMETHEUS -- and connects directly to Scott’s 1979 seminal work of science fiction. Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world -- whose sole inhabitant is the "synthetic" David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.
Rapace had indicated in the past that she would return for the Prometheus sequel, but the project has evolved a fair amount over the course of the past year - having most recently undergone a rewrite by Oscar-nominee John Logan (Gladiator, Spectre) - and Shaw's role has no doubt changed with it.
Nevertheless, Scott has recently indicated that Covenant will bring both David and Elizabeth back into the equation - seeing as the pair were essentially stuck with one another at the end of Prometheus - but only after the movie's initial act introduces the crew of the ship Covenant. This also explains recent reports that Covenant will feature a brand-new female lead (maybe the Covenant's captain?), with such rising stars as Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) having been considered at one point or another, to play the role.
Official news on that front ought to be coming soon but in the meantime, you can check out the Alien: Covenant title treatment, below:
Scott has already confirmed that Alien: Covenant will both reveal the home-world of the Engineers - those mysterious extraterrestrials from Prometheus who helped to create humankind - and shed more light on, exactly, how the terrible Alien Xenomorph came to be. The film should also continue with the creator/creation thematic motif of Prometheus, while at the same time telling a sci-fi movie narrative featuring overt religious subtext and/or overtones (as subtitles like Paradise Lost and Covenant suggest it will), like its predecessor.
The confusing connections between Prometheus and Alien were among the former's most controversial elements, though many were also critical of how Scott's Alien prequel/spinoff relies on formulaic horror movie tropes and character types in order to explore its big ideas. However, now that Scott appears to have a firmer idea of where he's going with the Prometheus trilogy and how it will link to Alien, perhaps Covenant will prove less divisive than its predecessor did.
As for Alien: Covenant's October 6th, 2017 release date: Scott and Fox struck gold (both critically and financially) with the space adventure The Martian in October of this year, so clearly the studio is hoping that lightning strikes twice with Covenant. Currently, the only other film scheduled to reach theaters that day is Andy Serkis' live-action/CGI project, The Jungle Book: Origins.
Alien: Covenant opens in U.S. theaters on October 6th, 2017.
Source: 20th Century Fox