Chris McGurk Named Chair-CEO of Cinedigm Digital Cinema

He was most recently the CEO of Overture Films.

UPDATED: Veteran Hollywood exec Chris McGurk is leaving the studio fold to become chair-CEO of publicly traded Cinedigm Digital Cinema, a leader in digital conversion.

Last July, McGurk and Danny Rosett abruptly departed their top posts at Liberty Media’s Overture Films when it became apparent that Liberty topper John Malone wanted out of the independent film biz.

It’s likely that Rosett will join McGurk at Cinedigm, insiders say. The duo also worked closely together at MGM.

At Overture, McGurk held the title of CEO. Previous to that, from 1999 to 2005, McGurk was vice chair and COO of MGM. He also has held top posts at Universal and Disney.

McGurk’s hire at Cinedigm is effective immediately, and ends months of speculation as to what his next move will be. The job at Cinedigm became open last summer when Bud Mayo resigned.

“Having closely watched the rollout of the Cinedigm platform, I am honored and excited,” McGurk said. “Cinedigm has extraordinary prospects to further grow its business and I look forward to assisting the company’s ongoing development and success.”

Cinedigm Digital assists mid-size and smaller theater chains across the country make the transition to digital. Firm, previously named AccessIT, has installed and manages about 6,000 digital screens, and has plans for another 4,000. At 10,000 screens, Cinedigm would have about 25 marketshare.

Cinedigm also is a leading provider of alternative content, including live concerts and major sporting events, such as the World Cup.

But the company’s stock was hit hard by the economic recession, when loan money for the conversion to digital dried up.

McGurk’s task will be to better explain what the company does, and pump up Cinedigm’s stock, which was a high-flyer in 2006 and 2007 before tumbling.

He’s got plenty of incentive. In addition to making a “significant” personal purchase of common stock in Cinedigm, he will receive an option grant to purchase another 4,500,000 shares of common stock in order to “align his interests with those of our shareholders,” the company said in the release announcing his hire.

“Our primary goal will remain to provide our exhibitor, studio and content partners with the platform, services and tools to capture the potential created by the digital conversion of theaters,” McGurk said.

“We are extremely pleased to have Chris McGurk lead our company going forward,” said Ned Gilhuly, founder of private equity firm Sageview Capital and a member of the Cinedigm board. Sageview has a major stake in Cinedigm.

“He [McGurk] has an ideal mix of relevant industry experience, strategic insight and demonstrated leadership ability to help drive Cinedigm to the next level,” Gilhuly said.

McGurk also noted that Cinedigm will be an “increasingly important conduit for the distribution of independent film.”

Upon Mayo’s exit, Cinedigm’s Adam Mizel and Gary Loffredo were interim heads. They will be stationed in the chairman’s office during the transition.

McGurk said he also was looking forward to working with one of Cinedigm’s newest board members: former AMC Entertainment chair-CEO Peter Brown.

Cinedigm’s biggest competitor is DCIP, the consortium formed by the three largest exhibitors, AMC, Regal and Cinemark.