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The current Pathé logo.

This article deals with the Pathé movie company. For their music business, see Pathé Records.

Pathé or Pathé Frères is the name of various French businesses founded and originally run by the Pathé Brothers of France.

Contents

History

Hungarian Pathé record

Founded as Société Pathé Frères in Paris, France on September 28, 1896 by brothers Charles, Émile, Théophile and Jacques Pathé, during the first part of the 20th century, Pathé became the largest film equipment and production company in the world as well as a major producer of phonograph records.

The driving force behind the film operation was Charles Pathé who had helped open a gramophone shop in 1894 and then established a phonograph factory at Chatou on the western outskirts of Paris. Successful, he saw the opportunities that new means of entertainment offered and in particular by the fledgling motion picture industry. Having decided to expand the record business to include film equipment, Charles Pathé oversaw a rapid expansion of the company. To finance its growth, he took the company public under the name Compagnie Générale des Établissements Pathé Frères Phonographes & Cinématographes (sometimes abbreviated as "C.G.P.C.") in 1897, and its shares were listed on the Paris Stock Exchange.[1]

Headquarters of Associated British-Pathé at 142 Wardour Street in London.

In 1896, Mitchell Mark of Buffalo, New York, may have been the first American to import Pathé films to the United States, where they were shown in the Vitascope Theater.

In 1902, Pathé acquired the Lumière brothers patents then set about to design an improved studio camera and to make their own film stock. Their technologically advanced equipment, new processing facilities built at Vincennes, and aggressive merchandising combined with efficient distribution systems allowed them to capture a huge share of the international market. They first expanded to London in 1902 where they set up production facilities and a chain of movie theaters. By 1909, Pathé had built more than 200 movie theaters in France and Belgium and by the following year they had facilities in Madrid, Moscow, Rome and New York City plus Australia and Japan. Slightly later, they opened a film exchange in Buffalo, New York. Prior to the outbreak of World War I, Pathé dominated Europe's market in motion picture cameras and projectors. It has been estimated that at one time, 60 percent of all films were shot with Pathé equipment.

Innovations

PATHE BABY 1924 Paris Olympiade - Rugby.jpg

Worldwide, the company emphasized research, investing in such experiments as hand-coloured film and the synchronisation of film and gramophone recordings. In 1908, Pathé invented the newsreel that was shown in theaters prior to the feature film. The news clips featured the Pathé logo of a crowing rooster at the beginning of each reel. In 1912, it introduced 28 mm non-flammable film and equipment under the brand name Pathescope. In the United States, beginning in 1914, the company's film production studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey produced the extremely successful serialized episodes called The Perils of Pauline. By 1918 Pathé had grown to the point where it was necessary to separate operations into two distinct divisions. With Emile Pathé as chief executive, Pathé Records dealt exclusively with phonographs and recordings while brother Charles managed Pathé-Cinéma which was responsible for film production, distribution, and exhibition. 1922 saw the introduction of the Pathé Baby home film system using a new 9.5 mm film stock which became popular over the next few decades. In 1923, Pathé sold off its United States motion picture production arm, which was renamed "Pathé Exchange" and then later acquired by RKO Pictures in 1928. Pathé sold its British film studios to Eastman Kodak in 1927 while maintaining the theater and distribution arm.

Natan to Paretti

Pathé was already in substantial financial trouble when Bernard Natan took control of the company in 1929. Studio founder Charles Pathé had been selling assets for several years to boost investor value and keep the studio's cash flow healthy. The company's founder had even sold Pathé's name and "rooster" trademark to other companies in return for a mere 2 percent of revenues. Natan had the bad luck to take charge of the studio just as the Great Depression convulsed the French economy.[2][3][4]

Natan attempted to steady Pathé's finances and implement modern film industry practices at the studio. Natan acquired another film studio, Sociètè des Cinéromans, from Arthur Bernède and Gaston Leroux, which enabled Pathé to expand into projector and electronics manufacturing. He also bought the Fornier chain of motion picture theaters and rapidly expanded the chain's nationwide presence.[5][2][3][4] The French press, however, attacked Natan mercilessly for his stewardship of Pathé. Many of these attacks were antisemitic.

Pathé-Natan did well under Natan's guidance. Between 1930 and 1935, despite the world economic crisis, the company made 100 million francs in profits, and produced and released more than 60 feature films (just as many films as major American studios produced at the time). He resumed production of the newsreel Pathé News, which had not been produced since 1927.[2]

Natan also invested heavily into research and development to expand Pathe's film business. In 1929, he pushed Pathé into sound film. In September, the studio produced its first sound feature film, and its first sound newsreel a month later. Natan also launched two new cinema-related magazines, Pathé-Revue and Actualités Féminines, to help market Pathé's films and build consumer demand for cinema. Under Natan, Pathé also funded the research of Henri Chrétien, who developed the anamorphic lens (leading to the creation of CinemaScope and other widescreen film formats common today).[5][2][3][4]

Natan expanded Pathé's business interests into communications industries other than film. In November 1929, Natan established France's first television company, Télévision-Baird-Natan. A year later, he purchased a radio station in Paris and formed a holding company (Radio-Natan-Vitus) to run what would become a burgeoning radio empire.[5][2][3][4]

But in 1935, Pathé went bankrupt. In order to finance the company's continued expansion, Pathé's board of directors (which still included Charles Pathé) voted in 1930 to issue shares worth 105 million francs. But with the depression deepening, only 50 percent of the shares were purchased. One of the investor banks collapsed due to financial difficulties unrelated to Pathé's problems, and Pathé was forced to follow through with the purchase several movie theater chains it no longer could afford to buy. Although the company continued to make a profit (as noted above), it lost more money than it could bring in.[5][2][3][4]

The collapse of Pathé led French authorities to indict Bernard Natan on charges of fraud. Natan was accused of financing the purchase of the company without any collateral, of bilking investors by establishing fictitious shell corporations, and negligent financial mismanagement. Natan was even accused of hiding his Romanian and Jewish heritage by changing his name. Natan was indicted and imprisoned in 1939. A second indictment was brought in 1941, and he was convicted shortly thereafter. He was freed in September 1942.[5][2][3][4]

The company was forced to undergo a restructuring in 1943 and was acquired by Adrien Ramauge. Over the years, the business underwent a number of changes including diversification into producing programs for the burgeoning television industry. During the 1970s, operating theaters overtook film production as Pathé's primary source of revenue. When the film operation came under the control of Giancarlo Parretti, he used it as a vehicle to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, only to lose both in a bankruptcy.

Jérôme Seydoux

In 1990 Chargeurs, a French conglomerate led by Jérôme Seydoux, took control of the company. As a result of the deregulation of the French telecommunications market, in June 1999 Pathé merged with Vivendi, the exchange ratio for the merger fixed at three Vivendi shares for every two Pathé shares. The Wall Street Journal estimated the value of the deal at US$2.59 billion. Following the completion of the merger, Vivendi retained Pathé's interests in British Sky Broadcasting and CanalSatellite, a French broadcasting corporation, but then sold all remaining assets to Jérôme Seydoux's family-owned corporation, "Fornier SA," who changed its name to Pathé.

Sectors

The sectors in which Pathé operates today are:

The Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel retained 3 of the projects of the group for digital terrestrial television: TMC, Comédie! and cuisine.tv.

It should be noted that outside of France, Pathé does not distribute its own product on DVD. Rather, other distributors release Pathé's product (such as 20th Century Fox in the UK).

List of Pathé's productions and releases

Appearances in other media

In a 2008 episode of E4's Fonejacker, Kyvan Novak in the guise of Charlie Wong, telephones Pathé asking for copies of films that have not yet been released, so he can make many copies and pass them onto the BAFTA judging panel, while pretending he is from their DVD department (which does not exist). In the sketch he wants them so he can make many copies and sell them in the street illegally for five pounds each, when in reality it is a prank call. He is contacted back after phoning later on in the day (the initial call is not seen on camera), Novak is put through to a lady who has not heard of him, who claims she is always in touch with BAFTA. After a while she hangs up after getting suspicious that he is not part of the organisation. The show has also won a BAFTA itself.

See also

References

  1. ^ Charles Morand Pathé: French producer, manufacturer, Henri Bousquet, Who's Who of Victorian Cinema website.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Willems, Gilles. "Les origines de Pathé-Natan." In Une Histoire Économique du Cinéma Français (1895-1995), Regards Croisés Franco-Américains. Pierre-Jean Benghozi and Christian Delage, eds. Paris: Harmattan, Collection Champs Visuels, 1997. English translation available at http://www.latrobe.edu.au/screeningthepast/classics/rr1199/gwrr8b.htm.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Abel, Richard. The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American, 1900-1910. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. ISBN 0520214781
  4. ^ a b c d e f Abel, Richard. French Cinema: The First Wave 1915-1929. Paperback ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. ISBN 0691008132
  5. ^ a b c d e Willems, Gilles. "Les Origines du Groupe Pathé-Natan et le Modele Americain." Vingtième Siècle. 46 (April-June 1995).

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