DuPont’s involvement with films and photographic supplies began in the 1910s when company officials suggested making film base as an outlet for excess nitrocellulose. During the next decade, DuPont spent over $500,000 trying to develop a film base and emulsion coatings. Rather than go it alone, DuPont formed a joint venture in 1924 with the Pathé Cinema Société Anonyme of Paris called the DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Corporation. The company produced 35mm positive movie film and sold about $4 million worth of film per year by the late 1920s.
In addition to photographic products, DuPont also investigated the use of cellulose film as packaging material. After acquiring the U.S. patent rights to cellophane in 1923, DuPont chemists developed a moisture-proofing system that revolutionized the food packaging industry. By 1938 cellophane accounted for 25 percent of DuPont’s annual profit.
In the early 1950s, the newly organized Film Department focused its research on non-cellulosic films and soon developed a polyester film called Mylar. Displaying superior strength, heat resistance and insulating properties, Mylar opened new markets in magnetic audio and video tape, packaging, and batteries.
During the 1940s and 1950s, DuPont’s Photo Products Department bought out the minority interest in DuPont-Pathé Film and acquired two companies to develop X-ray and photographic paper businesses. Photo Products also investigated the use of solid photopolymer compositions to make printed circuits for incorporation in all kinds of electrical devices. DuPont Riston photoresists cut circuit panel preparation time from minutes to seconds and was a hit with companies involved in the production of sophisticated printed circuits like IBM. Since the 1960s, DuPont has consistently developed new technologies in photo imaging, printing and packaging materials. Dycril photopolymer printing plates set new standards for printing quality, Fodel photo imageable compositions are used in flat panel displays, and the joint venture DuPont Teijin Films is the world’s leading supplier of PET and PEN polyester films.
DuPont began experimental production of motion picture film stock at DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Corporation in Parlin, N.J., in 1914. The effort was intensified as part of its post-World War I diversification strategy. By 1920 DuPont’s new Cellulose Products Manufacturing Department was producing film, while the company’s Redpath Laboratory was quickly improving it. When DuPont learned in the early 1920s that a French firm, Pathé Cinema Societé Anonyme, and its American affiliate, Pathé Exchange, planned to manufacture film in the United States to avoid the high tariffs levied on imported film, the company suggested a joint venture. In October 1924 DuPont and Pathé Exchange formed the DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Company. The venture, 51 percent owned by DuPont, started making film in February 1925 at the Parlin facility. It gave DuPont an assured market for one of its new, nitrocellulose-based products while also allowing an exchange of technical information between DuPont and Pathé Cinema in Paris. Both companies sought to gain on America’s leading film manufacturer, Eastman-Kodak.
DuPont’s color film, introduced in 1927, soon captured half the Hollywood market. At this time, however, Eastman Kodak bought Pathé Cinema, and two years later, in 1929, a new film distribution company, R.K.O., purchased most of the assets of Pathé Exchange. In 1931 the DuPont-Pathé joint venture dropped the Pathé name and became the DuPont Film Manufacturing Corporation. Ten years later, on December 31, 1941, DuPont bought the minority interest, now only 35 percent, and the film operation became part of the new DuPont Photo Products Department.