PATHÉORAMA

DescriptionHand-held film viewer
ManufacturerBreveté S.G.D.G., France
Time Period
Components1
DetailsInterior film shows a river landscape titled “La cluse de Donzère, le bas-Ardéche”
Film roll inside in brittle condition
Dimensions6 x 13.5 x 5.5 cm
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nºUCL201728

Conceived and patented in 1922, the Pathéorama revolutionized projection technology on film. This small metal box, measuring 13 x 4.6 x 3.5 cm, combines a magic lantern with a small film viewer. The scenes are seen both in color and sepia mono views. Its film has perforations on only one side. The larger side of the device opens, where the film is place and handled. On the smaller side, there is a magnifying peephole for viewing the film. The Pathéorama is divided into three compartments. To view its images, the filmstrip is transported by a rubber tire wheel from one compartment to the other, on top of a frosted celluloid screen. Made by the Pathé Cinema company, the Pathéorama came after the company’s experimental tradition over cinema and lighting business. By the 1920’s, Pathé accounted for half of the worldwide sales of 35mm movie equipment.[1] Early Pathéoramas were covered with cheaper materials as boiled leather, evolving to other more durable covers as tin or Bakelite. According to the Pathé company description and history behind the product, the idea of the Pathéorama derived from the middle-class kitchen and their ability of modifying leftovers. The inspiration behind the original patheorama was to edit still frames from old filmstrips and to mount these in order on about a meter of 35mm film.[2] Through this re-appropriation technique, the patheorama would serve not only as a moving image-viewing machine but also an active reinterpretation and recycling of forgotten filmstrips.    

Besides its viewing utility, the Pathéorama could also be positioned in a Cocorico viewer. Unlike its predecessor, this lantern was powered by electricity. A ray of light, generated by a lightbulb, passed through the Pathéorama and projected an image of about 1 x 0.80 m. The images were also 35mm film strips inserted inside the original device. Cocorico, a new adaptation of the magic lantern, revolutionized an industry of portable viewing entertainment. There was to be no physical boundary between viewers and early stages of the moving image.

An interesting component of the Pathéorama was the type of film utilized. As mentioned earlier, the first filmstrips used were standard 35mm film. However, this film had one edge of performations removed, a unique feature created for the patent over the product by Pathé.[3] The subject matter of these films varied: travel, cartoons, history, and miscellaneous scenes. It is worth noting how several of these filmstrips were collages of old film, until proper filmstrips were commissioned and made for the viewing device. Filmstrips featuring travelling scenes were the most common, due to the handy and portable nature of the Pathéorama. After their vacations, tourists would not only come back with snapshots on film from their vacations, but the latest portable technology—a patheorama viewer and Cocorico projector— to reproduce their moments abroad. The films were also sold under Pathé and could be bought in conjunction with the viewing device.

P.M.


[1] “The Pathéorama Viewer and Cocorico Projector,” last modified December 23, 2017, http://www.pathefilm.uk/pathe/pathepatheorama.htm

[2] “The Pathéorama Viewer and Cocorico Projector”.

[3] Ibid.