The European Cartel Convenes

In February 1909, fifty delegates from seven nations convened in Paris with the idea of establishing a European production and distribution monopoly that would counter the effects of Edison’s monopolistic practices in the United States. Charles Pathé, however, refused to commit himself to any organization likely to fall under the eventual domination of the Eastman Co., the American firm that controlled the international market for raw film stock. The most notable action of the Congrès International des Fabricants de Film (International Congress of Film Producers) was the adoption of the key item on Pathé’s agenda: replacing the current system of selling finished films to distributors and exhibitors with one that called for renting them at a fixed rate per foot. Circled (from left to right) are Charles Pathé, George Eastman, Georges Méliès (who presided), and Léon Gaumont. Ironically, because the new system rewarded producers for quantity (and thus encouraged standardization), it dealt a severe blow to Méliès, who specialized in elaborate, privately financed productions designed to satisfy the standards of a craftsman rather than those of a corporation (see Chapter 3.2 and Biographical Sketch 3.1).

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