Malone Shows New Appetite in Starz Studio Start-up

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For years, Liberty Media Chairman John Malone open disdained Hollywood studios. "It's like racing horses or owning a ball team," Malone told The New Yorker writer Ken Auletta in 1994 "There's too much ego in it to be a business."

That’s changed with the Malone’s Starz unit starting its own film unit, offering two ex-MGM executives a $200 million-plus bankroll.

Overture Films aim top produce or acquire between eight and twelve feature films a year, funneling them through a video distribution arm recently acquired from telecom company IDT and airing them on pay movie network Starz. The unit will be run CEO Chris McGurk and COO Danny Rosett, both of whom worked at MGM before the studio’s sale to an investor group that includes Sony Corp. and Comcast Corp.

McGurk served as vice chairman and chief operating officer at MGM from 1999 to 2005 while Rosett’s worked in several position 1994 to 2005, with his top post president of United Artists, MGM's specialty film division.

Starz spokesman Tom Southwick contends that Malone didn’t have a change of heart, but that Overture will not be the kind of bloated Hollywood studio that Malone long criticized.The major difference is Starz executives plan less bureaucracy. The most expensive part of a big studio is the development machinery required to fill a large pipeline with blockbusters, which results in many projects being discarded. Overture expects that it will only produce 40% of its film in-house, otherwise acquiring completed pictures in the film market. The first pictures will emerge next spring will be acquisitions.

The studio’s financial backstop will be the Starz! Network, already a major buyer of theatrical films.

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