Orion, founded in 1978 as an independent company, sizzled in the 1980s and early ’90s, in part because it took risks on challenging stories. Oscar-winning hits included “Amadeus” (1984), “Platoon” (1986), “Dances With Wolves” (1990) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Orion also gave the world “Caddyshack” (1980).
But the studio also had misfires, among them Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” (1984) and “She-Devil” (1989), which paired Meryl Streep with Roseanne Barr. Orion eventually found itself unable to compete with larger studios and declared bankruptcy. MGM bought Orion in 1997, and it remained largely dormant as a film business — it also has a TV division, which will not be part of Ms. Mayo’s purview — until Mr. Hegeman was hired in 2017.
Ms. Mayo, who grew up in Chicago (her mother was a paralegal, and her father was a radio executive), graduated from Columbia University with degrees in English and film studies. She got her start in show business as an intern for Lee Daniels (“Precious,” “Empire”). She said Spike Lee was as an important influence, in particular his “Bamboozled,” a 2000 satire about a modern televised minstrel show.
Ms. Mayo was briefly married to Lena Waithe, the Emmy-winning writer behind the Showtime series “The Chi.”
There are other Black women in senior roles at film studios. Nicole Brown is the executive vice president of Tri-Star, a Sony division that recently won a bidding war for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” a Whitney Houston biopic. Vanessa Morrison oversees the development and production of original films for Disney+.
But they are extremely few and far between, and most do not have the kind of movie-picking power that Ms. Mayo has been promised. According to the most recent U.C.L.A. study on diversity in Hollywood, senior management teams at studios are 93 percent white and 80 percent male. Five years ago, they were 92 percent white and 83 percent male.
As Ms. Ramón and her fellow researchers noted in the report, “Decisions about what types of films to make, how large a budget to assign to them, how they will be marketed and who will be at the directorial helm are all made by the men and women who occupy Hollywood’s executive suites.”