STONE OF GABRIEL LINK (my blog)
After failing to sell Orion to businessmanMarvin Davis (Sony was also interested), Kluge took drastic steps. First, Orion shut down production. Second, Kluge ordered the sale of several projects, such as The Addams Family (which went to Paramount), in order to accumulate much-needed cash. Finally, in the spring of 1991, Kluge’s people took over the company, leading to the departure of Arthur Krim. Orion’s financial problems were so severe, that at the 63rd Annual Academy Awards in March 1991, host Billy Crystal made reference to the studio’s debt in his opening monologue, joking that “Reversal of Fortune[is] about a woman in a coma, Awakenings [is] about a man in a coma; and Dances with Wolves [was] released by Orion, a studio in a coma.”
It was during this time that ABC stepped in to co-finance and assume production over many of Orion TV’s shows it had in production, such as American Detective and Equal Justice.
On November 25, 1991, Orion sold itsHollywood Squares format rights to King World Productions after Orion closed down its television division. On December 11, 1991, Orion filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcyprotection.
In December 1991, Orion was in talks withNew Line Cinema, a successful independent film company, to acquire the bankrupt studio. By the following April, Orion and New Line Cinema cancelled their plans on the issue of price. Republic Pictures and the then-newSavoy Pictures also attempted to buy Orion, but no deal materialized.
At the Academy Awards ceremony, broadcast on March 30, 1992, Crystal yet made another reference to Orion, this time about its demise:
The Silence of the Lambs swept all five major Academy Awards; however, a majority of key executives, as well as the talent they had deals with, had left the studio. Hollywood observers had doubts that Orion would be resurrected to its former glory. The bankruptcy of Orion also delayed the release of many films the studio had produced or acquired, among them RoboCop 3 (1993), The Dark Half (1993), Blue Sky (1994), Car 54, Where Are You? (1994), Clifford (1994), The Favor (1994), and There Goes My Baby (1994). It was not until 1993 and 1994 that the films were finally shown. Blue Sky won star Jessica Lange an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1994.
In November 1995, Orion and three other companies controlled by Kluge were merged to form the Metromedia International Group. Orion was eventually able to exit bankruptcy by 1996, but few of the films released during the four years afterbankruptcy protection were successful either critically or commercially.
In 1996, Metromedia acquired production company Motion Picture Corporation of America, and installed its heads, Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler, as co-presidents of Orion. Both received a six picture put picture distribution deal as a part of their contracts.
In the years ahead, Orion produced very few films, and primarily released films from other producers, including LIVE Entertainment.Orion Classics, minus its founders (who had moved to Sony Pictures Entertainment and founded Sony Pictures Classics), continued to acquire popular art-house films, such asBoxing Helena (1993), before Metromedia merged the subsidiary with Samuel Goldwyn Entertainment in 1996.
In July 1997, Metromedia shareholders approved the sale of Orion (as well as Samuel Goldwyn Entertainment and Motion Picture Corporation of America) to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This led to the withdrawal of 85 employees, including Krevoy and Stabler, while 111 other employees were to be laid off within nine months, leaving 25 of them to work at MGM. Orion also brought with it, a two thousand film library, ten completed movies and five direct-to-video features for future release and the Krevoy and Stabler movie put picture distribution deal. Krevoy and Stabler retained the right to the Motion Picture Corporation of America name and their three top movies. Metromedia retained Goldwyn Entertainment’s Landmark Theatre Group.One Man’s Hero (1999) was the last film released by Orion for 15 years.
MGM kept Orion intact as a corporation thus to avoid its Warner Bros. video distribution agreement and began distributing Orion Pictures films under the Orion Home Video label. MGM acquired the 2/3 of pre-1996PolyGram Filmed Entertainment library fromSeagram in 1999 for $250 million, increasing their library holdings to 4,000. The PolyGram libraries were purchased by its Orion Pictures subsidiary so as to avoid its 1990 video distribution agreement with Warner.
Orion returns: 2013–present
In 2013, MGM revived the Orion Television brand (after its original TV unit was shut down during its bankruptcy era) as Orion TV Productions with a new syndicated series,Paternity Court.
Orion Pictures name, also being called Orion Releasing, was extended in fourth quarter 2014 for smaller multi-platform video on demand and limited theatrical distribution. Its name was first seen again on September 10, 2014 in front of the trailer for The Town That Dreaded Sundown that was released in October. The label’ first releases was the Brazilian films Vestido pra Casar.
In September 2015, Entertainment One Filmsrelaunched the Momentum Pictures banner with an announced deal with Orion Pictures to co-acquire and co-distribute films in the United States and Canada, and selected foreign markets, such as the United Kingdom(Momentum’s country of origin). The initial films under the deal were The Wannabe, Fort Tilden and Balls Out.
In 2017, Orion TV added another court series,Couples Court, to its syndicated line up. The show is presided over by a husband wife team and deals with marital issues primarily cheating.
During the 1980s and early ’90s, Orion’s output included Woody Allen films, Hollywood blockbusters such as the first Terminator and the RoboCop films, comedies such as Throw Momma from the Train, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Something Wild, UHF, and the Bill & Ted films, and Best Picture Academy Award winners Amadeus, Platoon, Dances with Wolves, and The Silence of the Lambs.
Following is a list of the major Academy Awards (Picture, Director, two Screenplay and four Acting awards) for which Orion films were nominated.
Main article: List of Orion Pictures films
Almost all of Orion’s post-1982 releases, as well as most of the AIP and Filmways backlogs and all of the television output originally produced and distributed by Orion Television, now bear the MGM name. However, in most cases, the 1980s Orion logo has been retained or added, in the case of the Filmways and AIP libraries.
Most ancillary rights to Orion’s back catalog from the 1978–1982 joint venture period remain with Warner Bros., including such movies as 10 (1979), Caddyshack (1980),Arthur (1981), Excalibur (1981), and Prince of the City (1981). Some post-1982 films originally released by Orion – Lionheart (1987),The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) andAmadeus (1984) (the latter two being Saul Zaentz productions) – are currently distributed by Warner Bros. as well. HBO also owns video distribution rights to ¡Three Amigos! (1986), which co-produced the film and owns pay-TV rights. However, MGM owns all other rights and the film’s copyright. The Wanderers is owned by the film’s producers, however, the copyright is held by MGM/Orion.
Woody Allen’s films A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) and Zelig (1983) are the only Orion films from the original joint venture period now owned by MGM. Orion releases produced by the Hemdale Film Corporationand Nelson Entertainment are included in MGM’s library as well, and are incorporated into the Orion library. MGM via Polygram Entertainment did not acquire the Hemdale films, (which include The Terminator,Hoosiers, and Platoon) or the Nelson films (including the Bill & Ted films), until MGM via Polygram Entertainment bought the pre-1996 library of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, which included both companies’ libraries, although the television and digital rights to certain Nelson films are now held byParamount Television, with television syndication handled on behalf of Paramount Television by Trifecta Entertainment & Media.
Many of the film and television holdings ofThe Samuel Goldwyn Company have now also been incorporated into the Orion library (with ownership currently held by MGM), and the copyright on some of this material is held by Orion, except The New Adventures of Flippernow carries the MGM Television Entertainment copyright.
MGM still holds distribution rights to the 1980s revival of Hollywood Squares and High Rollers the company produced, as well as the remnants of the Heatter-Quigley library that was not erased, including all remaining episodes of the original Squares; they do not own the rights to the format, which is currently owned by CBS Television Distribution, successor-in-interest to King World, who purchased the format rights in 1991 and produced another syndicated revival from 1998 to 2004.
Orion distributed the first Rambo film, First Blood (1982). Rights to that film are now owned by StudioCanal as a result of purchasing the library of its co-distributor,Carolco Pictures.
In an episode of Family Guy, Mayor Adam West writes an unprovoked, angry letter to the constellation Orion’s Belt. He then flies to the constellation, yells “Take that, Orion!” and punches it, and the stars form the Orion Pictures logo. West then says, “That’s right. All you are is a failed production company.”
In the 1996 film, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie during the opening credit sequence of the movie that the cast members watch, This Island Earth, which features a moving star field, Crow T. Robot exclaims, “Oh, look – Orion’s bankrupt!”
On the 2002 MGM DVD release of UHF, if you listen to the commentary, it has “Weird” Al Yankovic sing lyrics to the jingle (“Orion, Orion is bankrupt now!”). This references how Orion nearly killed themselves by releasing the eventual cult classic the same year that many popular franchises were releasing new films. It became ironic when the studio was relaunched in 2013