The International Movie Industry

By Gorham Kindem | Go to book overview

12 France

Susan Hayward

Cinema was "born" in 1895, and depending on the historian, it was first born either in France or the United States. The American Thomas Edison's claims to first place are as strong as those of the French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière. In 1891, Edison (in tandem with W. K. L. Dickson) patented the kinetograph, a moving film camera, and in 1893 gave his first public showing of the short film with the peephole viewer called the kinetoscope. In 1895, the Lumière brothers gave the first ever commercial screening of film footage shot by their cinématographe, a dual purpose camera-projector. This is France's claim to first place in the history books. Less contentiously, it can be argued that cinema, as an integrated industry, originated from France in 1902 only to be "copied" in 1916 by the Americans, who very quickly took the pole position. The acknowledged pioneering spirits where production and distribution practices are concerned are Charles Pathé and Léon Gaumont. By the early 1900s, both had created and developed their companies into the major representatives of the cinema industry. The ranks of these two majors were joined in 1907 by a third company, Eclair, and in 1908 by a fourth, Eclipse. Pathé and Gaumont were the biggest investors in the development of the industry in terms of equipment, studios, theaters, and production. Eclair and Eclipse, because they were smaller and had less resources, invested primarily in studios and production.

The Pathé Frères' film company was established in 1896. By 1897, they had extended their premises in Vincennes to include film laboratories and studios. Léon Gaumont moved into camera manufacturing and launched his first prototype (Bioscope Demenÿ) in 1895. Shortly afterward, he set up his own studios in Belleville, under the direction of Alice Guy. It was Charles Pathé, around 1902, who first saw the profitability of renting rather than selling films outright and so revolutionized distribution practices while at the same time increasing his business figures tenfold. In a very brief period (1902-8), he established outlets all over the world and opened up a factory and a studio

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