Starz launches motion picture studio

MUMBAI: Starz has formed a new motion picture studio, Overture Films, which will produce, acquire and distribute eight to 12 full-length feature films a year. The studio will form collaborative relationships with film-makers.


Overture Films is a wholly owned subsidiary of Starz, LLC, which is a unit of Liberty Media Corp. and which also operates the Starz Entertainment premium television business and the Starz Media production and distribution company.


Overture Films is headed by CEO Chris McGurk and COO Danny Rosett.


McGurk and Rosett were key executives at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios Inc. prior to MGM’s 2005 sale to a group of investors led by Sony Corp. Most recently, McGurk served as senior advisor, new ventures, to Starz Media.


McGurk served as vice chairman and COO at MGM from 1999-2005. Rosett held a variety of executive roles at MGM from 1994-2005, including president of United Artists, MGM’s specialty film division.


During McGurk and Rosett’s tenure at MGM, the studio’s slate included such successful films as Hotel Rwanda, Legally Blonde, Barbershop, Die Another Day, Hannibal, The Thomas Crown Affair and the Academy Award winners Bowling for Columbine and Capote, which UA produced.


McGurk said, “Unburdened by the infrastructure and red tape of big studios, Overture Films will provide a unique opportunity for creative talent to return to the fundamentals of film making: original stories, gifted actors and innovative directors. At our studio the creative talent will be central not just in making the films but in helping to develop and execute the marketing and promotional campaigns, including the Internet. Overture Films will embrace and empower talent as true partners in the entire process of making and distributing films.”


He added that domestic and international theatrical distribution will also be handled by Overture. The target is for about 60 per cent of the films to be original productions, with the other 40 per cent acquired. The studio will be based in Los Angeles, and releases will begin in mid-2007.


McGurk will report to Starz, LLC chairman and CEO Robert B. Clasen.


Clasen said, “Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett are superb studio executives with great track records who will operate Overture Films with a favorable business model and creative autonomy. Overture is the keystone for the new structure at Starz. It complements the home video, television production, animated film, international sales and other units that were combined with the Starz premium channel business in August when Liberty Media purchased IDT Entertainment. Starz is now a fully integrated media company with the ability to produce any kind of programming and distribute that programming across all platforms.”


Clasen said the Overture Films slate will further strengthen the lineup of movies from other studio partners on the Starz premium channels and the Vongo Internet subscription movie download service. Overture will also provide a new business opportunity for Starz Home Entertainment, which will distribute the films to the home video market.


Rosett, who will report to McGurk, noted that the financial success of movies depends on having guaranteed premium TV and home video distribution in place. “Overture Films from the start has a multi-year output deal with Starz Entertainment — including the Starz premium channels and Vongo — and a distribution agreement with Starz Home Entertainment.”


Rosett continued, “We plan to release a broad and balanced spectrum of films that will target specific audiences, avoiding the ‘tent-pole’ focus that drives the major studios. Within the 8-12 films we release each year will be dramas, socially minded projects, thrillers, comedies, horror films and urban projects. Over the next few months, we will build the team that will be responsible for producing and distributing these films. We expect to make further announcements about our team, alliances with film makers and international distribution plans in the coming months.”


McGurk added, “Danny and I are thrilled that Overture Films is being launched with the full support and involvement of Bob Clasen and the entire Starz team and the backing of Liberty Media. We cannot think of a better platform to launch a new film studio that will provide a creative haven for film makers in Hollywood.”

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