Kavanaugh Buys Overture Marketing, Distribution Arms

(Updated) Two-thirds of the floundering company's employees will move over to Relativity, including execs Adee and Davies

Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media picked up Overture Films' distribution and marketing operations on Friday.

Details of the deal were not disclosed. An individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap that Relativity paid an estimated $10 million to acquire those assets.

Overture had sought about $100 million for the entire company.

As part of the deal, some 45 staff members, or two-thirds of Overture’s employees, will make the move to Relativity, the company announced. 

These include such high-profile additions as Peter Adee, Overture Films’ president of worldwide marketing, distribution and new media, and Kyle Davies, executive vice president of theatrical distribution.

The move by Relativity is one more step in what appears to be a strategy by Kavanaugh to create a full-fledged independent movie studio. Earlier this month, TheWrap broke the news that Netflix had made a deal with Relativity to stream the company's movies in the equivalent of a paid television deal, putting into place another key part of the would-be studio's distribution puzzle.

“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,” Kavanaugh said in a statement. “As we've been expanding this area of our business, finding a team with the experience and breadth and depth that Peter and Kyle's have couldn't have been a more perfect fit. They have released an incredibly broad slate of films over the past 15 years, including some of the highest-grossing films in their respective years. I really commend Starz for its smart leadership in helping us make this move.”

Though the move helped further solidify Kavanaugh's position as a major Hollywood player, former Overture executives saw little positive about the decision to sell off Starz Media's assets in a piecemeal fashion.

Prior to Friday's announcement, Starz had been rumored to be drawing interest from suitors such as Access Industries, Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik and French media giant Studio Canal.

"It's sad," said one former Overture executive. "The company's not being sold, it's being wound down."

Overture Films will release its remaining titles –  "Jack Goes Boating," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman; “Stone,” starring Robert De Niro; and “Let Me In,” a remake of the cult vampire favorite "Let the Right One In," starring Richard Jenkins — through a new distribution services agreement with Relativity.

That trio of films was at the heart of an embarrassing public spat between much of the company's senior management. Starz's hesitancy to provide money to release its remaining slate led to a series of heated arguments between Overture’s chief executives, Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett, and Starz president Chris Albrecht. Ultimately, that culminated in McGurk's and Rosett’s resignations earlier this month.

McGurk and Rosett had been looking to spend $50 million to support the release of the three films, so it's likely that Relativity will need to spend something in that vicinity on their roll-out.

During its three-year run, the independent distributor has had a spotty record. “Law Abiding Citizen,” with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, and the Robert De Niro-Al Pacino re-teaming “Righteous Kill” were moderate successes. But the bulk of its films got the cold shoulder from audiences.

Overture is part of the Starz Media umbrella, which includes the Anchor Bay Entertainment video company and two animation companies.

Owned by corporate parent Liberty Media, an investment firm led by billionaire John Malone, the company was put up for sale last February following a series of box office disappointments, including Dustin Hoffman’s “Last Chance Harvey” and Michael Moore‘s documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Without a buyer, the company has been in limbo throughout the spring and summer, unable to either produce or acquire films.

Overture's library has about 20 films, but it is not clear what will happen to the studio's full catalog. Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz's other assets remains on the auction block.

Relativity has more than 10 films scheduled for release this fall, including "The Fighter" with Christian Bale and David Fincher's highly anticipated Facebook history, "The Social Network."