Relativity takes over Overture distribution

Marketing operations also included in shift

Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media is taking over the distribution and marketing operations and some assets of the Starz Overture Films subsidiary.

Some 45 staff members, or two-thirds of Overture's employees, will make the move to Relativity Media in West Hollywood, including Peter Adee, formerly Overture Films' president of worldwide marketing, distribution and new media, and Kyle Davies, president, theatrical distribution.

The purchase effectively brings a marketing and distribution apparatus to Relativity's own film production operation, Rogue Pictures, whose movies will go out through a recent pay-TV deal that Kavanaugh's team clinched with Netflix. The Overture name itself will be retired.

"This essentially turns us into a full-fledged studio," Kavanaugh told THR. It does so, he went on to explain, by instantly adding marketing and distribution systems and expertise to his own development, production and film financing activities.

Relativity plans to release 12 of its own movies over the next year and more than 20 in 2012, Kavanaugh said.

The Relativity Media CEO also said that his company's deal with Netflix is as good as any studio's pay TV deal with the traditional pay channels like HBO and Showtime and has fewer restrictions. (Relativity will not have any Starz TV pay arrangement as a result of the Overture acquisition.)

Move follows the exits of Overture toppers Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett, who left recently in the wake of John Malone's decision to downsize his overall company's exposure to the film production business.

Starz Media has of late refocused its efforts on the TV side of the biz by greenlighting or buying several big-budget productions under management led by former HBO topper Chris Albrecht.

Overture Films will release its remaining titles -- "Jack Goes Boating," "Stone" and "Let Me In" -- through a new distribution services agreement with Relativity. (Relativity did not pick up the 16 movies in Overture's library.)

"Jack Goes Boating" is Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, which debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival; John Curran's dramatic thriller "Stone" stars Edward Norton and Robert De Niro; and Matt Reeves' "Let Me In" is a remake of the Swedish tween vampire movie.

The departure McGurk and Rossett was actually triggered when the two unsuccessfully sought a commitment from Albrecht to provide the funding to release the films this fall.

"We are in a great position to bring the marketing and distribution savvy of Peter and Kyle, and their teams to our home at Relativity," said Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media. "As we've been expanding this area of our business, the experience and depth that Peter and Kyle have couldn't have been a more perfect fit. I really commend Starz for its smart leadership in helping us make this move."

No financial details of the deal were available.

"With our increased focus on original content, it no longer makes strategic sense for Starz to make theatrical motion pictures," said Albrecht, who is president-CEO of Starz, Overture's parent company.

The tie-up between Overture and Relativity does not affect any of Starz Media's other operating assets, including Anchor Bay, which handles home entertainment releases.