Orion Classics


Orion Classics started in 1982 as the distribution label for the then independent film production company Orion Pictures, now owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was relaunched in 2018.

Orion Classics
IndustryMotion pictures
Founded1982; 40 years ago (1982) (Original),
2018 (relaunch)
United States
Key people
  • Sam Wollman (senior VP acquisitions, MGM)
  • Chris Ottinger
  • (MGM president of worldwide television and acquisitions)
  • John Hegeman (Orion Pictures president)
OwnerOrion Pictures
(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.)

The original focus of 1980-era Orion Classics was on acquiring independent and foreign films for North American distribution, as headed by Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, and Marcie Bloom. In addition it aimed to produce some arthouse films of its own. It was launched when Barker, Bernard and Donna Gigliotti moved from UA Classics, a United Artists specialty division. Among its most notable films were Babette's Feast, Pedro Almodóvar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train and Richard Linklater's Slacker.

Since its relaunch Orion Classics has released Mike P. Nelson's The Domestics and Jim Cummings' The Wolf of Snow Hollow, among others.


Orion Classics was formed by Orion Pictures in 1982 as an autonomous division for specialty films. United Artists Classics executives, Tom Bernard, Michael Barker and Donna Gigliotti, having a dispute with its parent United Artists left to fill Orion Classics' executive ranks, thus mirroring Orion Pictures' formation. With the UA Classics executives, the division had built in connection with the art house film community. While the three executives had different titles and responsibilities they acted as all having the same responsibilities.[2]

The division took on the early UA Classics modus operandi of frugal marketing spending and strict staggered releasing with few prints. Thus 10 to 50 prints would be made based on its potential success with an average marketing budget of $225,000 would be first released in New York City before moving on to other metropolitan areas and given time to find its position.[2]

The team was able to get French filmmaker Eric Rohmer to switch from UA Classics to Orion. He was then the source of its first film and box office hit with Pauline at the Beach in July 1983. Thus Orion Classics released four out of five of Rohmer's 1980s films and investing in a few of them. Orion's last acquisition in 1983 was its first independent US movie, Strangers Kiss (1984).[2]

In August 1983, the company had indicated that they would be into production of its own material by late 1984 or early 1985. However, Orion Pictures was having more box office failures then successes thus those plans were put on hold.[2]

In late 1991, when Orion Pictures was in serious financial trouble, Barker, Bernard, and Bloom left Orion Classics, taking the rights to the highly anticipated Merchant Ivory Productions adaptation of Howards End with them; at the invitation of former Orion president Mike Medavoy, who was now relocated at TriStar Pictures, the three set up Sony Pictures Classics, with Howards End as the company's first release.

In the mid-1990s, Metromedia acquired Orion, and merged the classics division into the Samuel Goldwyn Company. Both Orion and SGC were sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997, with the latter's function of producing and/or distributing independent films being assumed by MGM's United Artists division.


In May 2018, it was announced that Orion Classics would be revived as a multiplatform distribution label, with 8 to 10 films being released per year. Orion Classics will be MGM's method of getting into the day-and-date theatrical-VOD business. The label's first film is Mike P. Nelson's The Domestics, which was released in theaters on June 28, 2018, and on VOD and digital the next day.[1]

Film library

Title Release Date
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose 1982
The Pool Hustlers 1982
Beyond the Door September 5, 1982
Pauline at the Beach July 29, 1983[2]
Carmen October 20, 1983
Scrubbers January 31, 1984
Privates on Parade April 13, 1984
Sugar Cane Alley April 13, 1984
Another Country[2] June 29, 1984
Strangers Kiss[2] August 13, 1984
Old Enough August 24, 1984
Full Moon in Paris[2] September 7, 1984
Swann in Love September 14, 1984
Where the Green Ants Dream February 8, 1985
My New Partner March 8, 1985
MacArthur's Children May 17, 1985
Henry IV June 28, 1985
Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart[2] August 9, 1985
Came a Hot Friday October 4, 1985
Colonel Redl [2]
Ran[2] December 20, 1985
A.K. January 29, 1986
My Beautiful Laundrette March 7, 1986
A Great Wall May 30, 1986
The Green Ray[2] August 29, 1986
Restless Natives September 12, 1986
The Sacrifice November 1986
El Amor brujo December 23, 1986
One Woman or Two February 6, 1987
Devil in the Flesh May 22, 1987
Jean de Florette June 26, 1987
Rita, Sue and Bob Too July 17, 1987
End of the Line August 28, 1987
Dancing in Water September 18, 1987
Manon of the Spring November 5, 1987
Au Revoir Les Enfants December 1987
A Month in the Country February 19, 1988
Babette's Feast March 4, 1988
Wings of Desire May 6, 1988
Loose Connections July 8, 1988
Boyfriends and Girlfriends July 15, 1988
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown November 11, 1988
Field of Honor January 20, 1989
Murmur of the Heart February 3, 1989
Chocolat March 10, 1989
The Reader April 21, 1989
The Music Teacher July 7, 1989
Mystery Train November 7, 1989
Camille Claudel December 21, 1989
Too Beautiful for You March 2, 1990
Monsieur Hire April 20, 1990
Jesus of Montreal May 25, 1990
May Fools June 22, 1990
Wait Until Spring, Bandini June 29, 1990
Life and Nothing But September 14, 1990
Leningrad Cowboys Go America November 2, 1990
Cyrano de Bergerac December 1, 1990
Open Doors March 8, 1991
Love Without Pity May 31, 1991
My Father's Glory June 14, 1991
Europa Europa June 28, 1991
Slacker July 5, 1991
My Mother's Castle July 26, 1991
Opera September 6, 1991
The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe September 27, 1991
Rhapsody in August December 20, 1991
Raise the Red Lantern March 13, 1992
A Woman's Tale May 1, 1992
The Adjuster May 29, 1992
A Tale of Springtime July 17, 1992
Rain Without Thunder February 5, 1993
Boxing Helena September 3, 1993
Nostradamus September 16, 1994
Bar Girls April 7, 1995
Jeffrey August 18, 1995
Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey August 24, 1995
Maybe, Maybe Not July 12, 1996
Ed's Next Move September 27, 1996
Trees Lounge October 11, 1996
Prisoner of the Mountains January 31, 1997
This World, Then the Fireworks July 11, 1997
One Man's Hero September 24, 1999
The Domestics June 28, 2018
Unlovable[3] November 1, 2018
Jinn[4] November 15, 2018
Clara's Ghost[5] December 6, 2018
Maine[6] December 14, 2018
All These Small Moments[7] January 17, 2019
Valley Girl[8] May 8, 2020
The Wolf of Snow Hollow[9] October 9, 2020


  1. ^ a b McClintock, Pamela (May 21, 2018). "MGM Relaunches Orion Classics as Multiplatform Distribution Label". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Tzioumakis, Yannis (2012). "Orion Classics (1983 to 1997)". Unknown: Classics Divisions, Specialty Labels and American Independent Cinema. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 65–78. ISBN 9780748649594. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  3. ^ "SXSW Winner 'Unlovable' Bought by Orion Classics". 5 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Orion Classics Acquires Rights to SXSW Drama 'Jinn'". 14 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Orion Classics picks up 'Clara's Ghost'".
  6. ^ "Orion Classics Nabs North American Rights to Thomas Mann Drama 'Maine'". 9 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Orion Classics Picks up Tribeca Drama 'All These Small Moments'". 18 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Exclusive: Here's a, like, super rad look at the 'Valley Girl' musical remake".
  9. ^ "Jim Cummings' Thriller 'The Wolf of Snow Hollow' Debuts First Trailer". 17 September 2020.

External links

  • Official website