'Wheel' is Overture's first go-round


PARK CITY -- Overture Films has made its first acquisition, picking up all U.S. rights to producer-star Charlize Theron's drama "Ferris Wheel" for about $4 million.

Although "Wheel" was not shown at the Sundance Film Festival, Overture, the new indie production-distribution company, completed the deal in Park City during the fest. The film was produced by Denver and Delilah Films, Theron's production outfit, and Film Engine.

Directed by Bill Maher in his helming debut, "Wheel" stars Theron as a poor mother who gets caught up with the wrong crowd and abandons her young daughter (AnnaSophia Robb). She leaves the girl with her brother (Nick Stahl), and the girl develops a special bond with her uncle as they deal with the situation. Dennis Hopper plays the father of Theron's character, and Woody Harrelson plays a member of her circle of troubled friends.

Overture chief operating officer Danny Rosett said Overture execs, including CEO Chris McGurk, viewed about 45 minutes of the unfinished film before making their decision.

"You need to trust your gut," Rosett said. "Charlize gives an incredible performance with unbelievable sympathy. The film is compelling and a cut above anything we've seen at Sundance this year."

"When I heard Chris and Danny's reaction to the movie and detailed commentary, I knew that they were the perfect distributor for this project," Theron said. "I really look forward to this collaboration with Overture, and it is such an honor to be one of the first films out of their gates."

Overture, a division of Liberty Media's Starz, was launched last fall and plans to release two to three films this year, with a goal to ramp up its slate to eight to 12 films a year. Rosett has hopes for a fall release for "Wheel" but says a final decision will be made after the film completes postproduction in the spring.

" 'Wheel' features a high-quality, emotionally charged script with a talented director and a phenomenal cast," McGurk said. "We applaud Charlize's vision, and this film is perfect for Overture Films' first release."

"Wheel" is produced by Theron with her Denver and Delilah Films partner J.J. Harris, who also is Theron's manager, and Beth Kono, as well as Film Engine's A.J. Dix, Bill Shively and Mike Stirling. Film Engine also financed with NewBridge Film Capital.

The script was written by Zac Stanford ("The Chumscrubber"). Before his directorial debut, Maher worked as a digital effects supervisor ("Mars Attacks!").

ICM, which is repping North American sales on the project, negotiated the deal with Overture. Icon International is repping foreign sales.