Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Orion - Gone, but not forgotten

Orion started in 1978 when Three officers of United Artists became increasingly frustrated by dealing with the bureaucracy of that studio's conglomerate, Transamerica. They as well as Transamerica ended up publicly battling each other, and eventually they jumped ship. Two others in studio management followed them, and the Five formed Orion in March of that year. With a hundred million dollars in the bank, Orion was going to finance films made by independent producers, with Warner Brothers distributing.

Because of the great experience and wherewithal of it's Five founders, Orion immediately attracted many talented directors and stars, and hit the ground running. By the end of their first year they had 15 films in production and had directors like Woody Allen leaving studios like United Artists to climb aboard. In the early 80's Orion acquired the faultering studio Filmways to seek out distribution away from Warner Brothers. They had a great catalog which American International Pictures (!) as well as ties to HBO, TV and cable rights as well as owning once popular Television properties like The Addams Family and Green Acres. The takeover of Filmways gave Orion new footing in the television world, and soon they started to produce hit new shows like Cagney & Lacy. In 1983, Orion also formed Orion Classics which would cater towards more Art-House fare, as well as Orion Home Entertainment Corporation to cover the increasingly popular VHS market.

Over the next few years, Orion would have many ups and downs, producing a lot of great films, but also taking many the beating financially. In the mid 80's, new investors were brought in and some films hit (Back To School) and some really tanked (The Bounty) And then in 1989, the studio's luck began to slip further after a string of many, many flops. The same went for 1990. Eventually, even after producing back-to-back Oscar winning hits like Dances With Wolves and Silence Of The Lambs, Orion, who was now spending a lot of money producing television shows, was too far in the hole to get out.

Many studios tried to acquire Orion during this period, but none of those deals really panned out. Although they held on for dear life, by the end of the 90's, Orion was done for good... 1998 found Orion, as well as The Samuel Goldwyn Company and Motion Picture Corporation of America being sold off to MGM. Funny, flash forward 20 odd years later and MGM, once themselves partnered with United Artists (who isn't doing all that well these days themselves) is up on the block. The film business is wacky that way.

'Tis a shame that Orion has left us. But hey, because their catalog is owned by MGM, a lot of Orion goodness can be found out there on DVD as well as Streaming on MGM's website and on Netflix.

Here's a sampling of what Orion has given us during it's run:


The Great Santini
Life Of Brian
Dressed To Kill
The Hand
Prince Of The City
Four Friends
Amityville II The possession 
Summer Lovers
First Blood
Pauline At The Beach
Easy Money
Strange Invaders
Never Say Never Again
Broadway Danny Rose
The Hotel New Hampshire
Up The Creek
Beat Street
A Breed Apart
The Terminator
The Woman In Red
The Cotton Club
The Falcon And The Snowman
The Mean Season
The Purple Rose Of Cairo
Code Of Silence
The Return Of The Living Dead
Secret Admirer
The Heavenly Kid
Hannah And Her Sisters
At Close Range 
Absolute Beginners
Back To School

Three Amigos!
Radio Days
Making Mr. Right
The Believers
No Way Out
House Of Games
Best Seller
Throw Momma From The Train


The Unbearable Lightness Of Being
Bull Durham

Married To The Mob
Eight Men Out
Mississippi Burning
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Great Balls Of Fire

Navy Seals
The Hot Spot
State Of Grace
Dances With Wolves
Silence Of The Lambs
Mystery Date
Little Man Tate
The Favor
Blue Sky
I Shot Andy Warhol
The Arrival
Ulee's Gold

for a full list of Orion titles, check this IMDB page.


Ty said...

Amazing Post! Loved all the great old photos of Orion's past!

J.D. said...

Someone really should write a book about Orion as it is a pretty fascinating story, not to mention all the amazing filmmakers they hooked up with and subsequent films they cranked out. I really do miss them and always liked their logo.

Cinema Du Meep said...

Thanks TY!


I know, It really is! And I had to condense the whole story. It has a really interesting history. You just don't see many new studios these days, and certainly ones that are willing to go the extra mile to attract really talented filmmakers.

J.D. said...

I would say that the '90s equivalent would Miramax. They gave a lot of indie filmmakers a launching pad and took a lot of risks.

Cinema Du Meep said...

I definitely agree.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...