Société Pathé Frères


Société Pathé Frères
   Founded in 1898 by Charles Pathé, Société Pathé Frères was originally based in a studio at Vincennes that was built in 1902. Pathé later expanded to three studios, located at Vincennes, Joinville, and Belleville. Directed by Ferdinand Zecca, Pathé was, from 1902 until World War I, the most important studio and production company in France and perhaps the world. In addition to creating and producing films by directors such as André Calmettes, Romeo Bosetti, Albert Capellani, Segundo de Chomon, Georges Denola, Louis Gasnier, André Heuzé, André Hugon, Charles-Lucien Lépine, René Leprince, Max Linder, Alfred Machin, Lucien Nonguet, Gaston Velle, and of course Zecca himself, Pathé Studios was responsible for a number of technical and corporate innovations in the film industry.
   Pathé Studios operated on a particular model of film creation, production, and distribution. That model was aggressive, formulaic, efficient, and highly successful. Under Zecca, an assembly-line approach to film creation was put in place that utilized teams of writers, directors, and actors. It was the job of directors and writers to quickly develop and film formulaic but effective films (often copied from Gaumont or British cinemas) designed to conform to audience demands. The studios produced many farces and chase films, for example, which were very easy to write and produce in a short period of time. Pathé therefore could produce films much more quickly than its competition.
   In 1906, Pathé pushed film out of the fairground and into permanent sites of projection when it began to utilize permanent cinemas. In 1907, the studio began renting film prints to clients instead of selling them, melting down and reusing film stock, which made its films much less expensive that the films of other studios. In 1912, Pathé began to utilize mechanical colorization of films, a process that was perfected at the Pathé plants. This again gave the studio a great cost advantage over its competitors. Pathé also began expanding into the global market as early as 1907, establishing studios in Great Britain, the United States, and throughout Europe.
   Pathé might have remained a dominant force in world cinema but World War I had a destructive impact on the French film industry and assured Hollywood's dominance. Moreover, Pathé was slow to adapt to sound cinema, and the process of converting production meant an enormous expense for the studio. Finally, it seems fairly clear that Pathé was guilty of mismanagement and potentially fraud. In order to save the company, various parts of it were sold off. Pathé sold his personal shares to film producer Bernard Natan, who took over control of the studios in 1929, at which point it was renamed Pathé-Natan.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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