Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Pathé or Pathé Frères is the name of various businesses founded and originally run by the Pathé Brothers of France. This article deals with their movie company. For their phonograph and record business, see Pathé Records.
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 in 1897, its shares then listed on the Paris Stock Exchange .
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. 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.
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 begining of each reel. In the United States, beginning in 1914, the company's film production studios in 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 headed up Pathé-Cinéma that was responsible for film production, distribution, and exhibition. In 1923, Pathé sold its United States motion picture production arm which a few years later came under the control of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. who made it part of RKO Pictures. In 1927 they sold their British studios to Eastman Kodak while maintaining the theater and distribution arm.
By 1929 Charles Pathé had decided to sell out and accepted an offer from investor, Bernard Natan (1886-1942), who gave it a new identity as Pathé-Natan. However, the company was poorly run and went into decline, experiencing severe financial difficulties during the Great Depression of the 1930s. 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 Paretti, he used it as a vehicle to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, only to lose both in a bankruptcy.
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 of 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.
The sectors in which Pathé operates today are:
- distribution to theatres and homes
- the international management of a catalog of more than 500 films
- movie theaters
- EuroPalaces (network which federates the Pathé theatres and Gaumont)
- Cable and satellite television networks:
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