Patrick Anthony (Pat) Powers
Filed under: People, Businessman, President, Producer, Studio Head, 1920s, 1930s, Early Sound, Iwerks Studio, Mickey Mouse, Silly Symphonies, Technicolor, U.S.A., Ub Iwerks, Universal Studios, Walt Disney, Walt Disney Studios,
Patrick (Pat) Anthony PowersOccupation / Title:
08/10/1870Date of death:
Pat Powers was an influential American businessman who was involved with the film and animation developments inAmericaduring the first part of the twentieth century. His most important development being the work of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, who he backed financially in their earliest days.
Powers’ first forays into the industry was on the level of selling sound and moving picture technology. With his partner Joseph A. Schubert Sr., he sold phonographs from 1900 to 1907 inBuffalo, when they formed the Buffalo Film Exchange together. Their company bought films from producers and rented them to nickelodeons, created an in-between company that helped facilitate the popular spread of film.
He founded the Powers Motion Picture Company in 1910 after moving toNew York City. In 1912, the company merged with several film companies, including the Independent Moving Pictures Company, to form Universal Pictures. Powers began to serve on the board of the Universal Motion Picture Company as its treasurer. By 1922 Powers was also in charge of the Film Booking Office of America, an American film studio of the silent era which by the 20s had reorganized into separate studio and distribution operations, the latter of which Powers had under control. The FBO would merge with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theatre circuit in 1928 to form RKO Radio Pictures.
In 1927, Powers also invested in the failing sound film company DeForest Phonofilm. Though he was unsuccessful in taking over the company, which had been nearly besieged by bankruptcy, he employed a former technician of the DeForest Phonofilm company to reproduce its sound recording technology. He called the new product Powers Cinephone.
It was then that Pat Powers came across Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, who had already begun creating their own cartoons together. In 1929, around the team was launching such cartoons as the Mickey Mouse sound animation Steamboat Willie, Powers sold Disney a Cinephone system. Disney also began to distribute the sound cartoons through Powers’ company Celebrity Pictures. Soon after, Disney asked for more money from the distribution deal, after which Powers gave Iwerks a special deal to be in charge of his own animation studio, Iwerks Studio. Though the Iwerks Studio produced a few cartoons that found some measure of success, the studio closed down in 1936.
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Lasky, Betty. RKO: The Biggest Little Major of Them All. Santa Monica, California: Roundtable, 1989.