Robert Simonds’ nascent studio has closed an exclusive, four-year premium television deal with Showtime starting this year as it moves ahead with its first four features.

Gary Ross will direct Matthew McConaughey (pictured) in Civil War drama The Free State Of Jones, which Route One / Union Investment Partners and Vendian Entertainment are co-financing and IM Global sells internationally.

Billy Ray will commence production this month on The Secret In Their Eyes based on his adapted screenplay from the Argentinian Oscar-winning thriller. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts star and Mark Johnson produces.

STX is producing in association with IM Global, while co-financiers are Route One / Union Investment Partners.

Shooting is also scheduled to begin this month on Joel Edgerton’s untitled feature directorial and writing debut. The thriller from producers Rebecca Yeldham and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse explores whether bygones can ever truly be bygones.

Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Edgerton star. Blumhouse International, which recently partnered with Sierra/Affinity to license and service its upcoming films internationally not being distributed by Universal Pictures International, is overseeing international sales on the untitled adult thriller. Couper Samuelson serves as executive producing.

Will Ferrell is attached to star in Russ And Roger Go Beyond, based on the true story of the unlikely collaboration between Russ Meyer and his fledgling screenwriter Roger Ebert. STX is eyeing a late summer start for the comedy and is producing with Mark Amin, Cami Winikoff, David Permut and Richard Waltzer.

“As we continue to enhance our theatrical portfolio, we are delighted to have this long-term partnership with STX and look forward to bringing their robust slate of films to our networks’ subscribers,” said Kent Sevener and Gary Garfinkel, co-heads of content acquisition at Showtime Networks.

“STX Entertainment is the first major studio to launch in two decades, and these titles reflect the start of our diverse, long-term film strategy,” said STX motion picture group chairman Adam Fogelson. “We look forward to working with Matt Blank, David Nevins, Kent, Gary and the entire Showtime family as our pipeline of films finds an even broader audience on their cable and digital platforms post-theatrical.”

“We have been poring over a number of outstanding projects and creative opportunities in the last few months and we could not be more excited to be launching the STX film division with these four very distinctive motion pictures,” said STX motion picture group Oren Aviv, president and chief content officer. “Choosing these inaugural projects really came down to the exceptional quality of the screenplays as well as our confidence in our filmmakers and talent.”

“With Adam and Oren, we have two of the best executives in the business guiding our film activity,” said STX president Sophie Watts. “We are immensely proud of our broad, exciting and creatively varied film slate.”

“I’ve been looking forward to this reunion with Adam ever since we did Seabiscuit together,” said Ross. “I’ve never worked with a more thoughtful, confident, talented executive. I’m thrilled for him in this new venture and I’m honoured to be one of their first films.”

“I’m truly proud to be a part of the birth of this new studio,” said Ray. “The people at STX are everything I could ask for in a partner: seasoned pros who are constantly doing what’s best for the movie. What else could a director want?”

Edgerton added: “This has been a long-time passion project of mine and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be starting production with such a talented cast and in partnership with the incredible team under Adam and Oren at STX.” 

“I’m excited to be in business with such a smart and nimble group,” said Blum.