The Cost Of New York City

June 20, 2012 in Editorial

Ah, New York City. The Big Apple. We’re not sure what it is about you, but filmmakers just love seeing you destroyed. Perhaps it’s because you’re the home of the United Nations making you the representative of the world. Or perhaps it’s the Empire State Building that draws such hatred. Or maybe all those films are secretly bankrolled by a very bitter Duke of (Old) York. Whatever it is, it happens frighteningly often. The latest director who appears to have been burned by New York City’s absurd real estate prices is Joss Whedon who decided to destroy the city in The Avengers. In fact, according to Wikipedia, New York City has been destroyed on screen 63 times since 1933. That’s four destructions every five years.

New York City seems to get destroyed more often when America’s economy isn’t doing as well. In the 2000s America’s real GDP grew by just 18% – the lowest since the 1930s – and in that time New York was destroyed on screen 32 times. Conversely America’s real GDP grew a record 72% in the 1940s and not a single film depicted the destruction of the city. (For the nerdier among you the correlation is -0.43).

But is New York City worth it? According to experts surveyed by The Hollywood Reporter, the damage to New York City in The Avengers would cost $160 billion. This is just 12.5% of the income produced by the New York Metropolitan area in 2010 according to the BEA and so it seems to be worth it to rebuild the city. But The Avengers is just one instance of NYC getting destroyed. What’s distinctive about the city is that it gets annihilated so often.

Since 2001 (when the data begins) the BEA estimates that the New York Metropolitan area has generated about $10 trillion. In that time the city has been demolished on screen 33 times. If each event had the same cleanup costs as the violence perpetuated by Loki in The Avengers then the total bill would come out to $5.2 trillion.

New York City truly is an Empire state. Despite being invaded by aliens, smashed by mutant lizards, hit by meteorites, and flooded by tidal waves, the city still generates enough revenue to justify rebuilding it every single time it’s destroyed. But perhaps Mayor Bloomberg should consider helping Tony Stark relocate Stark Towers to Beijing instead. After all Loki only chose New York because of its skyline.

If you enjoyed this article then you should take a look at the accompanying video that includes many more details and trends. You might also like the cost of building a Death Star – the ultimate city destroyer – and the cost of going to Hogwarts. You can find this and other articles in our Editorials although for a selection of the best check out our Greatest Hits. And be sure to stay in touch: