Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media has effectively become a studio overnight following a deal to acquire the distribution and marketing operations of Overture Films.

The move had been in the works for some time and closed at around midnight on Thursday [22], almost one month after the departure of Overture CEO Chris McGurk and COO Danny Rosett.

Approximately 45 staff members, or two-thirds of Overture’s employees, will make the move to Relativity. They include Peter Adee, formerly Overture Films’ president of worldwide marketing, distribution and new media, and Kyle Davies, who becomes president of theatrical distribution.

Relativity has also taken over select assets from the Starz subsidiary. Anchor Bay Films remains within the Starz fold. Overture, which launched in November 2006, will release its remaining titles – Jack Goes Boating, Stone and Let Me In – through a new distribution services agreement with Relativity. 

The move into self-distribution seemed increasingly likely after Kavanaugh announced his de facto pay-TV deal with Netflix recently. In another clue, Kavanaugh told Screen International in an interview that will run in August that the 50-50 balance of Relativity’s single picture business and co-financed projects with Universal and Sony could shift to approximately 70-30 in favour of the former by 2011.

Talks are ongoing as to whether Universal will continue to service the release of existing films in Relativity’s Rogue pipeline, which include the alien abduction drama Skyline (pictured) and hit Sundance documentary Catfish. The slate financing deals with Universal and Sony are separate from developments and remain unaffected.

“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. “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.”

“With our increased focus on original content, it no longer makes strategic sense for Starz to make theatrical motion pictures,” Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said. “However we’re pleased to have found a great opportunity for the majority of the company’s employees, including the talented distribution and marketing teams.”

“We are very excited to be joining Ryan Kavanaugh and Relativity, as what they’ve accomplished in the past few years has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Adee said. “We’re also pleased to reach this agreement, which benefits everyone, and most especially will support these great films as they are set to reach audiences.”