Founder Movie Is Unfair to Entrepreneur Ray Kroc

(p. 1D) McDonald’s franchise owner Jim Darmody of Omaha notes that the Hollywood film about Ray Kroc doesn’t always put the self-proclaimed “founder” of the fast-food chain in a good light.
“The movie makes it seem like he stole something from the McDonald brothers,” Darmody said. “But I can’t fault him. He bought it from the brothers and made it a dynasty.”
. . .
(p. 3D) Ray Kroc not only made a fortune that his wife turned into philanthropy, Jim said, but also created opportunities for people like himself.
. . .
Darmody said the McDonald’s Corp. has an excellent inspection program at stores for consistency and cleanliness.
Communities, he said, also have benefited from the presence of McDonald’s.
Kroc died in 1984. His widow, Joan Kroc, who died in 2003, left her $1.5 billion estate to charity.
. . .
. . . in a 1993 phone interview, Dick McDonald told me that he and his brother had no regrets about selling to Kroc for what later seemed a pittance.
“Neither of us had any youngsters who would go into the business,” said Dick, who had come up with the idea for golden arches. “I guess we could have stayed and piled up millions. But as my brother once said, ‘What can we do with $40 million that we can’t do with three or four million — except pay a lot of taxes?’ ”
. . .
Darmody, who has flipped a few burgers, said he learned some things from the movie, including how the brothers came up with the speedy production system. But without Kroc, he said, McDonald’s wouldn’t be what it is today.

For the full story, see:
Michael Kelly. “Following in the Footsteps of Founder.” Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., March 2, 2017): 1D & 3D.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Mach 4 [sic], 2017, and has the title “Kelly: McDonald’s franchise owner in Omaha says ‘founder’ Ray Kroc created opportunities for people.”)

People Root for Billionaires If They Believe They Also Could Become Billionaires

(p. 22) “Billions” manages the feat of making you want the guy who has everything to have even more.
“People still root for billionaires because it reinforces the idea that they can do it too,” Mr. Kirshenbaum said recently. “People don’t want to be in a place where there’s not a lot of magic left in the equation.” Political analysts have long given this explanation for why poor or working-class people vote against tax increases for the wealthy: They want to believe that some day they, too, will have assets to guard.
. . .
Like the TV series, the film “The Big Short” puts you in the position of wanting the investors — or at least the investors depicted on the screen — to win. The movie channels your anger at the banks that came up with the perilous financial instruments that devastated the economy, but it leaves you no room to despise the charmingly eccentric rogue geniuses who made hundreds of millions of dollars shorting the housing market. All that hard work, the culling of documents and the fact-gathering trips to endangered Sun Belt real estate markets — it would be so wrong if they didn’t triumph in the end. Institutions are greedy; people are merely obsessed.

For the full commentary, see:
GINIA BELLAFANTE. “Big City; Rooting for the Robber Barons, at Least Those Onscreen.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., MARCH 20, 2016): 22.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 18, 2016, and has the title “Big City; Rooting for the Robber Barons, at Least on the Screen.”)

Reticent George Lucas Has Single-Minded Work Ethic

(p. C12) Although sometimes mocked by his contemporaries for his laborious approach to screenwriting (the script for “Star Wars” would evolve painfully over two years, as Mr. Jones describes in detail), Mr. Lucas developed for “Star Wars” a prodigious range of characters and settings. He had always loved make-believe, he recalled, “but it was the kind of make-believe that used all the technological toys I could come by, like model airplanes and cars.” Mr. Lucas earned respect as a shrewd and unsentimental negotiator. “I don’t borrow money,” he would say flatly, and his work ethic was second to none. From the outset, he foresaw the potential of merchandising, and by the late 1970s virtually every child in America and around the world would cherish his or her “Star Wars” figurines. In 1975, he established Industrial Light & Magic, a company that has produced the special effects not just for Mr. Lucas’s films but also for many Oscar-winning titles of the next 20 years, including “Jurassic Park.” He believed in the potential of computer games and perhaps regretted having sold his brainchild Pixar to Steve Jobs in 1986, far too early. He embraced the digital era, even predicting the advent of pay-per-view and online streaming.
Mr. Jones returns time and again to Mr. Lucas’s single-minded personality, in which work almost always took precedence. Fiercely independent, he was quite simply “the boss,” refusing to compromise with studio demands. Mr. Jones notes that Mr. Lucas has had “an inherent ability to hire the right people, and a preternatural knack for asking the right questions.” Diagnosed early on as a diabetic, Mr. Lucas has eschewed drugs and liquor. Reticent but not quite a recluse, devoted to his children, he hovers tantalizingly beyond the reach of the gossip columnists.

For the full review, see:
PETER COWIE. “A Death Star Is Born.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C12.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 9, 2016, and has the title “George Lucas: The Edison of the Movie Industry.”)

The book under review, is:
Jones, Brian Jay. George Lucas: A Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.

Department of Motor Vehicles Staffed by Sloths

The video clip above is an authorized “embed” from YouTube.

(p. D3) . . . “since the trailers have been playing everywhere, I can tell you a bit about one of the best things in “Zootopia”–an extended sequence set in a Department of Motor Vehicles office where all the clerks are sloths. That’s a funny notion, to be sure, and the main sloth, a clerk named Flash (Raymond S. Persi) has a deliciously distinctive demeanor. But the sequence’s great distinction is how confidently it is developed. In an era of quick cuts and speedy action, Flash is remarkably…outlandishly….hilariously….and memorably s-l-o-w. Kids will be imitating him for a month of Saturdays.

For the full review, see:
Morgenstern, Joe. “‘Zootopia’: Beauty and the Beasts.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 4, 2016): D3.
(Note: the ellipsis at the start is added; the internal ellipses are in the original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 3, 2016, and has the title “‘Zootopia’ Review: Beauty and the Beasts.”)

Did Feds Try to Sully Sully’s Reputation?

(p. B3) Even before this weekend’s release of the Hollywood movie “Sully,” about the pilot who safely landed a disabled US Airways airliner on the Hudson River on a frigid January day in 2009, a rebuttal campaign is already underway by some of the participants in the real-life story.
The federal investigators who conducted the inquiry into the flight contend that “Sully” tarnishes their reputation.
. . .
Allyn Stewart, a producer of the film, said it was not a case of taking creative license to ratchet up the drama. “The story is told through the experiences of Jeff and Sully, and so they felt under extreme scrutiny and they were,” Ms. Stewart said.
Jeff is the co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, played in the film by Aaron Eckhart.
Captain Sullenberger, who retired from US Airways in 2010, said in an email that the tension in the film accurately reflected his state of mind at the time. “For those who are the focus of the investigation, the intensity of it is immense,” he said, adding that the process was “inherently adversarial, with professional reputations absolutely in the balance.”

For the full story, see:
CHRISTINE NEGRONI. “Safety Agency Challenges True’ Story told in the Film ‘Sully’.” The New York Times (Sat., SEPT. 10, 2016): B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 9, 2016, and has the title “‘Sully’ Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama.”)

Sully’s book, on which the movie is loosely based, is:
Sullenberger, Chesley B., III, and Jeffrey Zaslow. Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

Good Niche Movies Can Be More Profitable than Blockbusters

(p. 5D) “Counterprogramming is the framework to get the most
bang for the buck for movies that aren’t necessarily going to be blockbusters. ”
Counterprogramming has become a crazy expensive game of chicken, Dergarabedian says.
Scheduling a rom-com next to a superhero franchise or a horror movie on Valentine’s Day is a classic ploy, he says, but there’s no formula that’s guaranteed. “You still have to be able to deliver the movie,” Dergarabedian says. “People are looking for different and good. You can’t just rely on being the other option.”
. . .
“A lot of these are David and Goliath matchups,” Dergarabedian says. “But it’s about who wins the profitability derby. That can ultimately be more important than where you rank on the chart.”
To determine success, look at how well the audience is served rather than money, says Erik Davis, managing editor for Movies.com and Fandango.com. The greater the disparity in the genres, the better the position to succeed, he says.
Though Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 performed modestly against BvS, Davis considers that scheduling a a win. “They (both) have potential to mine their specific audience,” he says.

For the full story, see:
Heady, Chris. “Studios Think Outside the Box (Office).” USA Today (Thurs., July 7, 2016): 5D.

Standard Oil Money Funded Homage to Oz

(p. A1) Vandals are slowly destroying the Land of Oz, a small private theme park nestled atop Beech Mountain, N.C., built on land bought years ago with money from a Standard Oil fortune. Thieves and urban explorers have carted off polka-dot mushrooms, a pair of cement lions and, most hurtfully, pieces of the golden-hued path that runs through the park.
“It’s magical,” says Vicky Conley of Morganton, N.C., who took her son to Oz last year when he was six. “People should leave it alone.”
. . .
(p. A8) In 1966, Mr. Leidy’s grandfather Page Hufty–an insurance pioneer and real-estate developer in Palm Beach, Fla.–bought land on Beech Mountain. His wife, Frances Archbold Hufty, was the granddaughter of John D. Archbold, a titan of the Gilded Age and John D. Rockefeller’s right-hand man at Standard Oil, which was dissolved by the government in 1911.
Mr. Hufty leased some of the land to other developers, who wanted a summer theme park to complement their ski resort.
The Land of Oz opened in 1970, amid much fanfare about the 70th anniversary of L. Frank Baum’s classic book. Debbie Reynolds stopped by. So did Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the 1939 movie. At least 300,000 people visited the first year, says Neva Specht, a historian and a dean at the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University.
By the second year, she says, it was one of the biggest attractions in the Southeast, and it graced the cover of “Southern Living” magazine.
. . .
But the park quickly became more of a white elephant than a Merry Old Land. Attendance dropped, as families were lured away by splashier attractions like Disney World, which opened the following year in Orlando, Fla. The developers went bankrupt, and Mr. Leidy’s grandparents eventually gained ownership.
. . .
Mr. Leidy installed fences topped with barbed wire, but thieves cut through. Security cameras didn’t seem to deter anyone either. Mr. Leidy is now hiring guards.
. . .
Mr. Leidy says he doesn’t know what lies in store over the rainbow, but thinks his grandparents would be proud.
“Until we figure out a long-term plan here,” he says, “it’s important to me to protect it.”

For the full story, see:
CHRISTINA REXRODE. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Even a Wizard Can’t Save Oz.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Sept. 18, 2015): A1 & A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 17, 2016, and has the title “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Even a Wizard Can’t Save Oz From Vandals.”)