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Pathé Exchange was an independent American film production and distribution company from 1921 through 1927 after being established in 1904 as an American subdivision of French firm Pathé.
As early as 1900, the French company Pathé, the largest and most successful film studio in the world at the time, distributed its films in the United States. In 1904, it launched an American subsidiary, Pathé Company, based in Buffalo, New York.
In 1909, Pathé was asked to join the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC). As a result, Pathé utilized MPPC's General Film Company distribution company to distribute its films.
Beginning in 1914, the Pathé Frères' film production studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey produced the successful serialized episodes, The Perils of Pauline. Pathé stopped all production in the US by 1914 and in 1915 re-incorporated Pathé Company to Pathé Exchange.
Pathé Exchange was spun off from its French parent company in 1921, with a controlling stake held by Merrill Lynch. Charles Pathé stayed on as a director of the American firm.
By 1923, after coming under the control of Merrill Lynch, Pathé Exchange was once again re-incorporated to American Pathé.
For many years, Pathé was closely associated with the distribution company Associated Exhibitors which handled independent productions. In late 1926 the struggling Associated Exhibitors was subsumed into Pathé, as part of a trend of mergers in the American film industry. In March 1927, American Pathé was acquired by Joseph P. Kennedy, and in 1928 merged with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theaters, along with Cecil B. DeMille's independent Producers Distributing Corporation to create what would eventually come to be known as RKO Radio Pictures. In that interim period, production of short subjects credited to American Pathé increased to about 150 in five years, under the nameplates "Manhattan Comedies", "Campus Comedies", "Melody Comedies", "Checker Comedies", "Folly Comedies", "Rainbow Comedies", "Rodeo Comedies", and "Capitol Comedies", featuring players such as Franklin Pangborn, Thelma White, Buck and Bubbles, and Alan Hale.
Among American Pathé's independent productions are the very influential documentary feature Nanook of the North in 1922, and a large number of film serials.
By 1932, the company switched to producing newsreels & documentaries only.
In 1941, the company acquired Producers Releasing Corporation. However, they were sold off in a merger in 1947 with Eagle-Lion Films. Also in 1947, the newsreel operations were sold by RKO to Warner Bros.
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