United Artists Releasing (UAR), founded as Mirror in December 2017 and rebranded in February 2019 on the centennial anniversary of United Artists’ founding, is a distribution venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Annapurna Pictures, and MGM’s Orion Pictures. The studio is owned 50-50 by MGM, which was acquired by Amazon in a merger with MGM in March 2022, and Annapurna Pictures. UAR will continue to operate as a label with Amazon, who will continue to partner with the company to support theatrical releases on a case-by-case basis. Previous LGBTQ-inclusive releases by UAR include GLAAD Media Award nominee Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017); GLAAD Media Award nominee God’s Own Country (2017); Every Day (2018); Anna and the Apocalypse (2018); GLAAD Media Award-winning comedy Booksmart (2019); and Valley Girl (2020).
House of Gucci
Widest Theatrical Release: 3,477 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Fail
Based on a true story, this film follows the initial romance between Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci, which ultimately devolved into a fight over control of the fashion brand Gucci. In the very beginning of the film, Patrizia walks into a party with a man who is very affectionate with other men in the room. At one point he is dancing with another man until Patrizia pulls him away. Later in the film, out designer Tom Ford joins the Gucci company. While Ford is gay in real life, the film does not include any portrayal of his life outside of work. GLAAD did not include this character in its tally.
Widest Theatrical Release: 786 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
Licorice Pizza takes place in the San Fernando Valley in the ‘70s, following the relationship between teenager Gary and 25-year-old Alana. Toward the third act of the film Alana tries to distance herself from Gary and become more serious by volunteering for city councilman Joel Wachs, who is running for Mayor. Wachs is closeted and asks Alana to join him for a dinner date with his boyfriend Mark as a cover to avoid suspicion that he is gay. Though Mark is upset that his boyfriend won’t publicly be seen with him, Wachs insists he must remain in the closet to run for office.
Ultimately, their story, and a discussion Mark has with Alana about the price of love, inspires Alana to return to Gary, thus serving to further the straight plot. It is notable, however, that Joel Wachs is a real political figure, who came out during his 1999 Mayoral run. While it’s creditable that Licorice Pizza did not erase his sexuality, they could have done much more with the character.
No Time to Die
Widest Theatrical Release: 4,407 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
The most recent installment in the James Bond franchise briefly confirms the sexual orientation of the tech mastermind Q. During one scene, Bond and Moneypenny interrupt Q at home, where he is preparing dinner for a date with an unnamed man. Q’s use of male pronouns for his date is the only confirmation of his sexuality and the moment moves on within the blink of an eye. It is disappointing that the film did not delve further into Q’s life when it had the opportunity to introduce his romantic interest as more than just a throwaway line. Actor Ben Whishaw, who plays Q and is gay himself, expressed disappointment in how small of a moment it was. “I think I thought, ‘Are we doing this, and then doing nothing with it?’ I remember, perhaps, feeling that was unsatisfying,” he told The Guardian, regarding the afore-mentioned scene.
Widest Theatrical Release: 3,207 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Fail
This biopic of Aretha Franklin includes a brief moment at the beginning of the film where two men are shown flirting at a party. These men never appear again nor are they named or given a purpose besides showing the environment young Aretha found herself in. Respect’s out screenwriter, Tracey Scott Wilson, mentioned that Aretha’s sister Carolyn was queer, and there was originally a scene in the film which addressed that, but the scene was ultimately cut from the final product.
MGM’s Orion Pictures was relaunched in 2020 with a stated mission to elevate films and storytelling from underrepresented communities. The company is an inaugural member of the GLAAD List Founder’s Circle, a group of production companies, studios, and streaming services that are dedicated to driving cultural change and amplifying LGBTQ studios. Alana Mayo, President of Orion Pictures, is a member of GLAAD’s Board of Directors. MGM has an active LGBTQ employee resource group. GLAAD did not find any donations from UAR or MGM Holdings to anti-LGBTQ politicians in 2021.
This summer’s Anything’s Possible, a teenage love story between a trans girl and her boyfriend, was released through MGM on Amazon Prime in July. This film is from a script originally featured on The GLAAD List and is Billy Porter’s directorial debut. Orion will be releasing the comedy Bottoms, from out Shiva Baby filmmaker Emma Seligman. The film follows two awkward queer high school girls who start a fight club to impress and date cheerleaders. A third Legally Blonde film is still in the works from MGM, penned by Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor, both of whom have included central LGBTQ characters in their television series. The original Legally Blonde featured a character who was revealed to be gay as a plot twist; a sequel should include more fleshed out queer characters, as the film is beloved by the community. Now that Amazon owns MGM, the future distribution of their films will be split between theatrical releases and streaming exclusives.