Though American audiences might first think of roaring lions and cloud-draped mountain peaks when discussing classic studio icons, the first several decades of moviemaking were dominated by an emphatically crowing rooster, the trademark of pioneering French film company Pathé. Founded by the four Pathé brothers in 1896, the company, then known as the Société Pathé Frères, soon became the largest film equipment and production company in the world.

Its first major coup occurred in 1902, when Pathé managed to grab the rights to the Lumière brothers’ patents and set about developing their own line of moviemaking gear. By 1908, Pathé had revolutionized the cinema with the introduction of the pre-feature newsreel, which remained a staple of the moviegoing experience until TV news broadcasting took over in the 1960s.

Nowadays, Pathé remains at the forefront of international production and distribution; the British arm of the company still distributes over 90,000 historic newsreels. In addition to its various subsidiary companies, the Pathé Gaumont archive supplies moviemakers with an impressive collection of classic film and news footage. As distribution moguls continue to expand, Pathé has not only evolved with the changing landscape of the moviemaking world, but has also managed to carve out a unique niche for itself, as the guardian of cinematic history. For more information on Pathé’s many activities, visit their website.