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The Founder

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The Founder
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Lee Hancock
Written byRobert Siegel
Produced by
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Edited byRobert Frazen
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • December 7, 2016 (2016-12-07) (Arclight Hollywood)
  • January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[1]
  • United States
Budget$7–25 million[2][3][4]
Box office$24.1 million[5]

The Founder is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by John Lee Hancock and written by Robert Siegel. Starring Michael Keaton as businessman Ray Kroc, the film depicts the story of his creation of the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain, which eventually involved forcing out the company's original founders to take control with conniving ruthlessness. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch co-star as McDonald's founders Richard and Maurice McDonald, alongside Linda Cardellini as Ray Kroc's third wife Joan Smith, and B. J. Novak as McDonald's president and chief executive Harry J. Sonneborn.[6]

The film premiered at Arclight Hollywood on December 7, 2016, and was released theatrically in the United States on January 20, 2017, by the Weinstein Company. It grossed $24 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Keaton's performance.


In 1954, struggling Prince Castle salesman Ray Kroc travels to San Bernardino, CA to meet Dick and Mac McDonald at their eponymous restaurant after the brothers purchase eight of his milkshake machines. Kroc lauds the brothers' success over dinner, where Mac and Dick explain the restaurant's origins and success following a complete redesign of the store in 1948, eliminating unnecessary overhead and reducing costs. Eager to cash in, Kroc quickly presses the brothers to expand franchising. After an initial refusal, the brothers agree to a business deal under very strict contract terms, and a lengthy approval process for potential changes.

Kroc breaks ground in Des Plaines, putting up his home as collateral. Hungry for more growth, Kroc pursues wealthy local connections for investment in franchising and recruits Fred L. Turner as his business partner. After early struggles with franchise operators not being hands on, which doomed the brothers' previous franchise attempts, Ray hits on the idea of the model of a local operator: putting the franchisee directly into the workspace, and working alongside their staff. Kroc sees rapid gains and continues to expand, traveling to St. Paul to oversee the first opening in the Twin Cities. There, Kroc meets Rollie Smith, and his wife, Joan, who are interested in franchising; Kroc immediately becomes infatuated with Joan. At the same time, Kroc stresses against rising pressure from financial operating costs, and falls behind on his payments. Kroc is unsuccessful at renegotiating his contract with the McDonald brothers, and, when his bank calls his home, Kroc's wife, Ethel, discovers her husband put the home up as collateral without her knowledge. Kroc later files for divorce from Ethel.

Kroc visits his bank for help with his lease terms, and is approached by former Tastee-Freeze Finance VP Harry Sonneborn, who offers to review Kroc's books. Sonneborn explains to Ray that the business operator model will fail under the contract terms restricting him. Sonneborn provides Kroc with guidance toward evolving McDonald's into a real-estate model with financial investor backing. In 1955, Franchise Realty Corporation is incorporated, and begins aggressive expansion of the McDonald's franchise. When the brothers are informed of the new company and Kroc's intent to buy the land, Dick and Mac are taken aback, but are powerless against the power Kroc now has. Emboldened, Kroc approaches his attorney for help getting out of his contract, and further begins enacting changes to the franchises without Dick and Mac's approval, including the introduction of powdered milkshake mix, to bring down operating costs. When Kroc officially rebrands Franchise Realty Corporation as the McDonald's Corporation, Mac collapses from diabetic shock and is hospitalized. Kroc visits the brothers at the hospital, and offers them a blank check to buy them out.

The brothers agree to sell for $2.7 million, the rights to the San Bernandino location, and 1% of future profits. Kroc agrees to their terms except for future profits, which he refuses and offers to carry out under a handshake agreement. The brothers reluctantly agree, and Kroc becomes the sole owner of the McDonald's Corporation. Dick asks Kroc why the latter didn't just take the idea and run with it. Kroc admits he always wanted the restaurant for himself because of the brother's last name, with Kroc lamenting his own name isn't "American" enough, but that McDonald's represents American values. The film ends as the brothers are forced to change the name of their original location, and Kroc begins construction of a new McDonald's immediately across the street in San Bernandino. Kroc, now married to Joan, prepares himself for a public speech that California Governor Ronald Reagan will attend, heavily plagiarizing a speech he listened to earlier in the film, arguing his success came from persistence.

An epilogue reveals that June Martino becomes a part owner in the McDonald's Corporation, Sonneborn is made President and CEO but quits a few years later after falling out with Kroc, Turner succeeds Kroc as senior chairman in the company and that Kroc did not honor his handshake deal. The McDonald brothers were never paid their royalties, which would eventually have been over $100 million a year and that McDonald's feeds about 1% of the world's population every day.




The screenplay for The Founder was written by Robert Siegel, based on Ray Kroc's autobiography and an unauthorized biography.[7] According to early reports, the film was to be developed in the same vein as There Will Be Blood and The Social Network. According to Deadline Hollywood, it was ranked the 13th-best unproduced script of 2014.[8][9] In December 2014, John Lee Hancock was signed to direct the film.[10]


In February 2015, Michael Keaton was signed to the role of Ray Kroc.[11] Laura Dern joined the film on May 11, 2015, to play Kroc's wife Ethel Fleming, whom Kroc divorced in 1961.[12] The next day, it was announced that Nick Offerman joined the film, set to play Richard "Dick" McDonald.[13] On May 28, 2015, it was announced that B. J. Novak joined the film as Kroc's financial consultant, Harry J. Sonneborn.[14] On June 9, 2015, it was reported that Linda Cardellini had joined the film,[15] and on June 26, 2015, it was announced that John Carroll Lynch and Patrick Wilson had also been cast.[16]


Principal photography for the film began in Newnan, Georgia on June 1, 2015.[17][18] Production designer Michael Corenblith had previously worked on films including Apollo 13, Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side in which attention to historic detail was important. Corenblith worked from archival photos, training films, materials provided by the McDonald family, blueprints obtained from eBay, and research at the oldest McDonald's restaurant in Downey, California. The McDonald brothers' original octagonal San Bernardino restaurant was built in Newnan in the parking lot of the Coweta County administration building.[19]

After a month of searching for a suitable location, an old-style McDonald's building set with the "golden arches" was constructed in a church parking lot in seven working days in Douglasville, Georgia.[20] The set included a working kitchen with period-accurate kitchen equipment that was brought up to current code. Rearrangement of exterior features such as parking lot striping allowed that set to serve as each franchise location portrayed in the film. Both interior and exterior portions of the restaurant were modular, allowing countertops or entire wall-sized glass panes to be removed to make room for cameras and other equipment.[20][21]

Filming also took place on location at the Canton Theatre in Historic Downtown Canton, Georgia.[22]

The J. Mack Robinson College of Business Administration Building in downtown Atlanta, which houses a Bank of America branch, served as the Illinois First Federal Savings & Loan Association building.[21] Some interior sets were built on soundstages at EUE Screen Gems Studios in Atlanta. Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club served as Rolling Green Country Club in the film.[23][24]


On March 2, 2015, The Weinstein Company paid $7 million for the film's distribution rights.[25] On March 26, 2015, the studio set the film for a November 25, 2016 release date.[26] In March 2016, the film was moved up to August 5, 2016.[27] On July 13, 2016, the film's release date was delayed until a limited December 16, 2016 date, followed by a wide release on January 20, 2017.[28] The film eventually opened in the United States at Arclight Hollywood on December 7, 2016, in order to qualify for the 2017 Oscars.[29]

In February 2017 FilmNation Entertainment, one of the film's production companies, sued The Weinstein Company for $15 million. The Weinstein Company released Gold on January 27, 2017, a week after The Founder, which FilmNation claimed was a breach of contract, saying the two companies had an agreement that no Weinstein Company film would be released within a week before or after The Founder.[3][4]


Box office[edit]

The Founder grossed $12.8 million in the United-States and Canada and $11.3 million in others territories, for a worldwide total of $24.1 million.[5]

In North America, the film was expected to gross $3 million from 1,115 theaters in its opening weekend.[30] It ended up earning $3.8 million, finishing 9th at the box office.[31] In its second week the film made $2.6 million, a drop of 23.4%.[32]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 81% based on 248 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Founder puts Michael Keaton's magnetic performance at the center of a smart, satisfying biopic that traces the rise of one of America's most influential businessmen – and the birth of one of its most far-reaching industries."[33] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score 66 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[34] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[2]

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers gave the film three out of four stars, stating director Hancock and screenwriter Siegel did "strive hard—and mostly succeed—at keeping Hollywood sentiment out of the storytelling.... Set more than a half century ago, The Founder proves to be a movie for a divisive here and now. Step right up. You might just learn something."[35] RogerEbert.com's Matt Zoller Seitz gave the film three out of four stars saying that despite the film over-relying on exposition and failing to skillfully incorporate Ray Kroc's personal life into the narrative, "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about The Founder constantly since seeing it... It's an ad that becomes a warning before circling around and becoming another, darker kind of advertisement, and one of the most intriguing and surprising things about The Founder is that, in the end, it seems vaguely ashamed of itself for letting this happen".[36]


Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2016 Capri Awards Best Actor Won
2017 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best Time Capsule
The Founder
Nominated [37]
Best Actor Nominated
Best Buddy Picture Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Founder (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. September 13, 2016. Archived from the original on May 9, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Tom Brueggemann (January 22, 2019). "Top Ten Box Office Takeaways: M. Night Shyamalan Returns with 'Split'". IndieWire. Archived from the original on December 23, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Busch, Anita; D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 8, 2017). "The Weinstein Co. Sued Over Distribution Of 'The Founder' By FilmNation And Its Subsidiary". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 22, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Ng, David (February 8, 2017). "Weinstein Co. sued over release dates for 'The Founder' and 'Gold'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 20, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The Founder (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on February 7, 2022. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  6. ^ Hancock, John Lee (Director) (January 20, 2017). The Founder (Motion picture). Douglasville, Georgia: The Weinstein Company.
  7. ^ Seigel, Robert (January 25, 2017). "'The Founder' Follows Salesman's Genius Idea To Franchise McDonald's". All Things Considered. NPR. Archived from the original on January 30, 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "Weinstein Company Wins Bidding War for Michael Keaton's McDonald's Movie 'The Founder' (Exclusive)". TheWrap. March 2, 2015. Archived from the original on March 3, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  9. ^ "Black List 2014 Gets Star Treatment In 10th Anniversary Announcement Monday". Deadline Hollywood. December 14, 2014. Archived from the original on April 9, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  10. ^ "John Lee Hancock Plans McDonald's History Story, The Founder". ComingSoon.net. December 10, 2014. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  11. ^ Formo, Brian (February 28, 2015). "Burgerman: Michael Keaton Will Star in a McDonald's Biopic". Complex. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  12. ^ Kit, Borys (May 11, 2015). "Laura Dern in Talks to Join Michael Keaton in McDonald's Mogul Biopic (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 14, 2015. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (May 12, 2015). "Nick Offerman Joins Micheal Keaton in McDonald's Mogul Biopic (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 1, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (May 28, 2015). "B.J. Novak Joins Michael Keaton in McDonald's Founder Biopic (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (June 9, 2015). "Linda Cardellini Joins Michael Keaton in McDonald's Drama 'The Founder'". Variety. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  16. ^ Hipes, Patrick (June 26, 2015). "John Carroll Lynch On 'The Founder' Menu; Gwendoline Christie Joins 'Swallows & Amazons'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 13, 2016. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  17. ^ "On the Set for 6/1/15: James Gunn Starts Shooting 'The Belko Experiment', Michael Keaton Begins Mcdonald's Biopic 'The Founder' & More". SSN Insider. June 1, 2015. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  18. ^ Bernarde, Scott (June 3, 2015). "Movie Shoot in Douglasville Begins Next Week". Patch.com. Archived from the original on June 7, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  19. ^ Bowers, Maggie (January 18, 2017). "'The Founder' movie to open Friday". The Newnan Times-Herald. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  20. ^ a b Corley, Laura (May 28, 2015). "Golden Arches Are Going Up". Douglas County Sentinel. Archived from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  21. ^ a b Guerrasio, Jason (December 15, 2016). "How the earliest McDonald's restaurants were recreated for Michael Keaton's new movie". Business Insider. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  22. ^ "The Founder". Explore Canton, GA. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  23. ^ Gire, Dann (January 21, 2017). "Here's how the film 'The Founder' recreated spots that featured in McDonald's founder Ray Kroc's life". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  24. ^ Mordan, Laura (January 6, 2017). "The Founder Set Design: See What the First McDonald's Burger Joint Looked Like in 1954". Architectural Digest. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  25. ^ McNary, Dave (March 2, 2015). "Weinstein Co. Buys Michael Keaton's McDonald's Movie 'The Founder'". Variety. Archived from the original on March 2, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 26, 2015). "Michael Keaton Starrer 'The Founder' Gets Release Date; Focus World Rounds Out 2015 Slate". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  27. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 1, 2016). "Weinstein Co.'s 'The Founder' Moves To August; 'Lion' To Roar During Thanksgiving Week". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March 2, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  28. ^ Coggan, Devan (July 13, 2016). "Michael Keaton's McDonald's movie The Founder gets awards season release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 6, 2016). "Weinstein Co.'s McDonald's Movie 'The Founder' Will Open Doors Early". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 8, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  30. ^ "'Split' And 'xXx' Merge Into Market While 'The Founder' May Get Lost In Heavy Traffic – Box Office Preview". Deadline Hollywood. January 17, 2017. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  31. ^ "Uni/Blumhouse's 'Split' Is A Hit With High $39M To $40M+; 'Xander Cage' Falls Down". Deadline Hollywood. January 23, 2017. Archived from the original on August 1, 2023. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  32. ^ "Is Controversy Impacting 'A Dog's Purpose' At The Box Office?". Deadline Hollywood. January 29, 2017. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  33. ^ "The Founder (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 16, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  34. ^ "The Founder reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  35. ^ Travers, Peter (January 18, 2017). "'The Founder' Review: Michael Keaton Makes a Happy Meal of McDonalds Biopic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  36. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (January 19, 2017). "The Founder Movie Review & Film Summary". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2020. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  37. ^ Rahman, Abid (December 15, 2016). "Denzel Washington's 'Fences' Leads Nominations for AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2016.

External links[edit]