Buildings vs. Movies: Comparing Budgets of Blockbusters and Notable Architecture Projects
When it comes to expensive artforms, architecture undoubtedly tops the list (even if the artistic merits of some of the
absolute priciest buildings are sometimes dubious). But what may not be so obvious is that many of architecture’s iconic works have been completed on budgets not so dissimilar to the work of another artistic industry: filmmaking. Each with their own set of merits, works from both categories have transcended time, confirming that (in most cases) they have more than returned on their initial investment.
To illustrate this point, we’ve complied a list of buildings from eras past, paired with movies of similar budgets completed in the same calendar year. Which buildings or movies have contributed the most based on their initial costs?
Johnson Wax image via wikimedia user Jack Boucher under public domain. Wizard of Oz image via wikimedia user MGM under public domain.
Building: Johnson Wax Building / Frank Lloyd Wright $1.2 million Movie: Wizard of Oz $2.7 million 1952
Lever House image © flickr user ekain. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. The Greatest Show on Earth image via IMDB under public domain.
Building: Lever House / SOM $6 million Movie: The Greatest Show on Earth $4 million 1956
Price Tower image © flickr user fireboats. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Love Me Tender image via IMDB under public domain.
Building: Price Tower / Frank Lloyd Wright $1.25 million Movie: Love Me Tender $1 million 1959
Guggenheim Museum image © Laurian Ghinitoiu. Some Like It Hot image via wikimedia user United Artists under public domain.
Building: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum / Frank Lloyd Wright $3 million Movie: Some Like It Hot $3 million 1967
Habitat 67 image © Jade Doskow. Casino Royale image via IMDB under public domain.
Building: Habitat 67 / Moshe Safdie $22 million Movie: Casino Royale $12 million 1982
National Assembly Building image © flickr user abrinsky. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA. Blade Runner image © flickr user echoes4ever. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: National Assembly Building of Bangladesh / Louis Kahn $32 million Movie: Blade Runner $28 million 1989
Wexner Center image © flickr user OZinOH. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Indiana Jones image © flickr user randar. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: Wexner Center for the Arts / Peter Eisenman $50 million Movie: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade $55 million 1997
Guggenheim Bilbao image © flickr user angaros. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. The Fifth Element image © flickr user sbwoodside. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Building: Guggenheim Bilbao / Frank Gehry $100 million Movie: The Fifth Element $95 million
Kunsthaus Bregenz image © flickr user Böhringer Friedrich licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Austin Powers image © flickr user thomashawk. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Building: Kunsthaus Bregenz / Peter Zumthor $22 million Movie: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery $18 million 1999
Jewish Museum Berlin image © flickr user asalisz. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. The Green Mile image © flickr user billstrain. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Building: Jewish Museum Berlin / Daniel Liebeskind $56 million Movie: The Green Mile $60 million 2001
Sendai Mediatheque image © flickr user eager. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Harry Potter image © flickr user clsphotos. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: Sendai Mediatheque / Toyo Ito $130 million Movie: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone $125 million 2004
Seattle Central Library image © Philippe Ruault. The Polar Express image © flickr user ritahogan. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: Seattle Central Library / OMA + LMN $166 million Movie: The Polar Express $170 million 2007 Building: San Francisco Federal Building / Morphosis $144 million Movie: I am Legend $150 million
New Museum image © Iwan Baan. Grindhouse image © flickr user floydgal. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Building: New Museum / SANAA $50 million Movie: Grindhouse $53 million 2008
Watercube image © flickr user Kyle Simourd. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. The Incredible Hulk image © flickr user tim_norris. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: Watercube National Swimming Centre / PTW Architects $140 million Movie: The Incredible Hulk $138 million 2009
Aqua Tower image © Hedrich Blessing. Avatar image © flickr user centralasian. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Building: Aqua Tower / Studio Gang $300 million Movie: Avatar $425 million 2010
Columbia University image © Michael Moran Studio. Tron: Legacy image © flickr user alcalaenfotos. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: Columbia University Northwest Corner Building / Davis Brody Bond + Rafael Moneo + Moneo Brock Studio $200 million Movie: Tron: Legacy $200 million 2011 Building: The Dali Museum / HOK $36 million Movie: Midnight in Paris $30 million
HARPA image courtesy of Henning Larsen Architects. Thor image © flickr user tales2astonish. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Building: HARPA Concert Hall / Henning Larsen Architects $150 million Movie: Thor $150 million 2012
Heydar Aliyev Center image © Iwan Baan. The Hobbit image © flickr user flyfarther79. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Building: Heydar Aliyev Center / Zaha Hadid Architects $250 million Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $250 million 2013
user bangdoll. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Building: Danish National Maritime Museum / BIG $55 million Movie: Captain Phillips $55 million 2014
Biomuseo image © Fernando Alda. The Lego Movie image © flickr user brickset. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Building: Biomuseo / Frank Gehry $60 million Movie: The Lego Movie $60 million 2015
The Broad Museum image © Iwan Baan. Mad Max: Fury Road image © flickr user kaysha. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Building: The Broad Museum / Diller, Scofidio + Renfro $140 million Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road $150 million
Overall budgets for buildings can be difficult to measure – numbers are based on total cost of construction. Movie budgets have been found at The Numbers. Buildings not listed in US dollars have been converted using the FXTOP Historical Exchange Rates Calculator.