Orion, the precursor to Sony Pictures Classics, has taken on new life. When MGM bought the label in 1996 after its declared bankruptcy in 1991 was over, it
waited until 2013 when it once again used the name Orion as a tv brand for “Paternity Court”, the syndicated court show. Now, as reported by Variety, September 11, 2014, “MGM
intends to use the venerable indie name Orion as a brand for smaller releases, both domestically and internationally, on VOD and limited theatrical.”
Variety recalls Orion as the distributor of ‘80s and ‘90s independent hits such as “RoboCop,” “The Terminator” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
I remember Orion Classic’s Donna Gigliotti, my counterpart when I was at Lorimar and her two colleagues, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, now of Sony
Pictures Classics. Together we bought Working Title and Channel Four’s “My Beautiful Laundrette” in 1985 and “End of the Line” together and briefly thought we would do Jonathan Demme’s
adaptation of Spaulding Grey’s “Swimming to Cambodia” together with producer and
now-professor of film at NYU, Peter Newman. Some drama with Donna pouring her
white wine over Peter as the film went to Cinecom where now-Columbia Film School’s Chairman, Ira Deutchman, exec produced it at while at Cinecom. It was
Ira who gave me a pirated version of Q&A, the first database which I turned into FilmFinders, my company of 25 years until bought and buried by IMDb in
But most of all I remember Orion’s principals and founders Arthur Krim, Orion’s board chairman; Eric Pleskow, president and chief executive officer;
William Bernstein and Mike Medavoy who were the most wonderful men in the business. Smart and well educated men with a respect that touched me deeply and
led me gently into the business.
In 1982 they acquired the almost equally well-loved Filmways after investment banking firms of Wertheim and Company and Bear, Stearns and Company chose
them as the top contenders for the troubled Filmways. At that time, in 1982, Orion’s own movies were not doing so well either.
Orion had been formed in the spring of 1978 by the former top management team at United Artists, which had left in a dispute with Transamerica, the
insurance company parent of United Artists. Orion had been releasing its films through Warner Brothers but was eager to acquire a distribution network of
its own. Filmways had the nation’s seventh-largest film distribution network, with 16 branch offices in the United States. (The other six were the major
studios.) New York Times reported extensively about this in 1982
and as I was getting my sea legs on this ship of fools we call the film business, this was the most important news of the day.
And now Orion is making its first theatrical appearance in 15 years with
“The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” a horror movie from “American Horror Story” director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. A recently released trailer of the film features the Orion label, its first
appearance since 1999’s “One Man’s Hero.” “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is the second recent production to carry the Orion label, following Brazilian
film “Vestido Pra Casar” which is to go out theatrically later this year. “Town” will also be released under the BH Tilt label, a recently-created multiplatform expansion from Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions. Blumhouse’s international sales are handled by Stuart Ford’s IM Global.
MGM’s Orion Releasing is also releasing Mark Platt’s production, “ We’ll Never Have Paris”, which is being
represented internationally by K5 (“The Visitor”) and distributed in Benelux by CDC United Network, in the Middle East by Falcon, and in the U.K. by Metrodome Distribution.
As a postscript, I want to say that I still love this crazy business. Plus ça change, plus c’est la mĕme chose.