As a young kid growing up in the late 80s into the ’90s, I don’t think I had much of a concept of who was really making the movies I was seeing. Disney was probably the only real studio I was aware of, although I might have had some vague awareness that Warner Bros. was the place that made Bugs Bunny cartoons. So, I didn’t really know the difference between a production company and a studio. I just knew that most movies started off by showing us a bunch of logos for various companies involved in the making of the film. The logos that stuck out at me were either visually distinctive (that TriStar horse) or simply popped up in front of so many movies I loved that they became kind of like a stamp of approval. If I saw that logo I knew that I was about watch something pretty cool.
That’s what I had with Orion Pictures, whose logo greeted me every time I watched the first Terminator, RoboCop (both of which I was way too young to be watching, but that’s beside the point), Throw Momma from the Train, and both Bill & Ted movies. So, it’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic every time I see this:
According to Deadline, MGM has owned Orion Pictures since 1996, and though it has not used that label on any of its releases since 1999 it has rather quietly slapped the Orion name to an upcoming remake of the semi-classic slasher film The Town That Dreaded Sundown. This doesn’t actually mean Orion Pictures is an active company again. In fact, it has no assigned staff members. MGM is just leveraging the nostalgia and international respect for the brand name “Orion Pictures” to create a new label for the studio’s smaller releases which will likely never rise above limited theatrical/VOD play. It’s kind of cool but ultimately meaningless. It’s certainly far removed from Orion’s glory days.
You can check out Wikipedia for Orion’s history, but the gist is that it started out as production company in 1978 and then became a full on mini-major studio in 1982, both producing and distributing its own films. In those early days, it failed to ever deliver a smash hit, but it also didn’t have any huge failures. You would have seen that Orion logo in front of the likes of Caddyshack (1980), First Blood (1982), Easy Money (1983), The Woman in Red (1984), and a bunch of Woody Allen movies, such as Zelig (1983) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). However, things really took off for the company in 1984 with the release of Amadeus, which became the first of four Orion films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Around that time, Orion also ventured into TV, most notably with Cagney & Lacey, and listed HBO and Viacom among its investors. That’s a huge reason why so many of us remember the days when Orion movies like Three Amigos and Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School seemed to always be playing on HBO.
The rest of the ’80s brought such well-remembered Orion films as Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), F/X (1986), Bull Durham (1988), Eight Men Out (1988), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), and Mississippi Burning (1988). Unfortunately a string of bombs in 1989 as well as general mismanagement ultimately forced the company to declare bankruptcy in 1991 before being incorporated into MGM in 1996. Orion’s final film as an active company was the mostly forgotten Tom Berrenger project One Man Hero (1999), a real life story of Irish Catholic immigrants during the Mexican-American war.
MGM first started re-using the Orion label last year, attaching it to the syndicated court show Paternity Court. That brings us to The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Here’s the trailer:
Won’t lie: It was kind of odd seeing that Orion logo again, this time in front of a brand new movie. Plus, honestly, I’ve never seen the original Town That Dreaded Sundown. I just know it’s the movie where the killer wears a pillow case over his face with two small holes for his eyes, and everyone assumes that’s where Friday the 13th: Part 2 got its idea for Jason’s ill-fated burlap sack mask. Plus, I know that it’s loosely based on a real-life killing spree in a small Texas town, and the real killer was never found. This new version from Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee) and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) seems to be somewhat of a sequel, like what if that killer came back to remind the town to dread sundown. It looks fairly promising, but I’m still thinking back to all those movies that came before and bore the Orion logo. Good times.
What do you think? Do you have similarly nostalgic reactions to the Orion logo? Or were you always more of a TriStar Pictures or Castle Rock Entertainment person? Or did none of this mean anything to you? Let me know in the comments.