Zombies Are Worth Over $5 Billion To The American Economy

Zombie Art Model

Photo: Space Pirate Queen / Flickr

Zombies may be the walking undead, but their contribution to Main Street’s economy is very much alive.In modern times, the zombie genre has evolved from a cult following to a highly popular theme. 24/7 Wall St. estimates that the today’s zombie genre economy is worth billions of dollars.

Click here to see the zombie earnings >
Think way beyond zombie movie ticket sales. Think about DVD sales, video games, comic books, novels, Halloween costumes, zombie walks, merchandise, conventions and even zombie art.

Add to that all of the websites, homemade movies, Facebook sites, YouTube sites and other forms of “digital” zombies, not to mention music. And if you think the financial tab has been high so far, by the end of 2012 the tab is going to be far larger.

Of course, figuring out the exact dollar figure around the “value of zombies,” despite hours of research and interviews with “zombie insiders,” is difficult.

Many companies and top industry leaders do not share any sales data and they do not want to divulge how much they make off this craze. On a global scale, the market is even larger. Could this craze be tied to the hard economic times?

Bestselling zombie genre author Max Brooks noted on his website, “I think they (zombies) reflect our very real anxieties of these crazy scary times. A zombie story gives people a fictional lens to see the real problems of the world. You can deal with societal breakdown, famine, disease, chaos in the streets, but as long as the catalyst for all of them is zombies, you can still sleep.”

Regardless of the reason, zombies are worth billions of dollars. The figure that we were able to piece together: $5.74 billion. In all honesty, this tab is grossly undercalculated in each category. By the time you add the money spent in total around the zombie genre, the figure is much higher.

These are 24/7 Wall St.’s estimates of the zombie economy.

Click here to see the zombie earnings >
This post first appeared on 24/7 Wall St.


Zombie economy: $2.5 billion

The zombie genre in movies is massive and is only going to get larger. Amazingly, George Romero's 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead is royalty-free, and does not add much to the actual economics of the zombie genre. Over the past decade, the tally for the top two master titles alone surpasses $1 billion. Milla Jovovich sexed up the zombie theme with four Resident Evil films, grossing more than $600 million globally according to the Internet Movie Database. And Will Smith's hit I Am Legend generated close to $600 million globally in sales. We added to the tally such films as the Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, The Crazies, Zombieland and others. The entire zombie genre is closer to $2 billion in the past decade alone for just the big titles.

Once you include the endless DVD sales and the various rentals and subscription services, the tally comes closer to $3 billion than $2.5 billion. On top of it, hundreds of various for-theatre and b-grade zombie flicks have been made.

The figure could rise by 2012 and beyond as the fourth Pirates of Caribbean film features zombies; there was talk of a prequel to I Am Legend; Zombie Island is being made; and World War Z is coming to the screen with Brad Pitt in late 2012. A fifth Resident Evil film is also expected next year. If you include the numerous remakes of Frankenstein, the figure for movie sales only climbs higher and higher. We will go with the $2.5 billion just to be safe, and we expect that this total is a massive understatement.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Video Games

Zombie economy: $2.5 billion

Zombie video games have grown into nothing short of another billion dollar business. Series of games under such franchises as Resident Evil, Doom, Dead Rising, House of the Dead, Call of Duty and the new wave of PC and tablet games like Plants vs. Zombies are worth millions of dollars. The various Resident Evil titles from Capcom have sold roughly 46 million titles. Doom sold more than 8 million copies. And the Nazi zombies were responsible for many more expansion packs and raw Call of Duty sales. In fact, many observers believe that, when it comes to zombies, the video game industry is larger than the movie industry. To smooth out the sales through time, we used a theoretical $29.99 average per Resident Evil title for a low-ball figure, which comes to more than $1.3 billion. By the time we add the used video game title market, the arcade segment, console sales, and the PC and app-version games, the figure has to be at least $2.5 billion. And that is conservative.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Comic Books, Magazines, and TV

Zombie economy: $50 million

The Walking Dead is a top-seller in the comic book industry, which is dominated by superhero themes. The publisher, Image comics, told us that edition #90 is set to have 30,000 printed editions. At $2.99 per edition, implied comic book sales would be close to $10 million. The comic is also an AMC Entertainment smash hit, as is all the zombie rage these days. The show, which averaged more than 5 million viewers in Season 1, and Season 2 is just underway, with a whopping 7.3 million viewers tuning in for the season opener. And more is coming.

Marvel Zombies has even produced an alternate universe where many Marvel characters become zombies. This has seen several off-shoots due to high readership interest. DC Comics has I Zombie. The horror and undead genre magazines include Rue Morgue and Fangoria. Rue Morgue said they have 1,850 monthly subscribers. Their total monthly circulation was listed as close to 14,000. The Halloween issue is even larger. The centre for Disease Control even launched the 40-page comic novella Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic, really. The major and small media brands behind the zombie genre are then worth some $50 million combined at least.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Halloween Costumes

Zombie economy: $500 million (over 4-year period)

Calculating a true tab on just what the adult population will spend on zombie costumes for Halloween is no simple task. The National Retail Federation estimates that Halloween costumes for adults alone will be around $1.2 billion (and about another $1 billion for children) in 2011. We have spoken with Spirit Halloween, the largest U.S. seasonal Halloween retailer with nearly 1,000 seasonal locations, as well as other local year-round costume shops, to come up with some rough figures. CostumeHub.com also noted for this season that zombies would be in the top 10 costume categories. While we cannot find exact figures for zombie costumes, especially because of overlapping sales of rotting flesh, fake blood, makeup, and more, our sources estimate that 8% to 10% or higher of all costume sales are zombie-related. Adding do-it-yourself zombie costumes -- without accounting for child costumes -- is $100 million to $150 million in the U.S. Over a four-year period, the value can easily reach over $500 million.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Books and Novels

Zombie economy: $100 million

World War Z author Max Brooks is modern-day zombie hit writer. The book, about a zombie apocalypse, is set to become a Brad Pitt movie in late 2012. Almost 1 million copies were sold prior to a more recent mass market release. Both it and a prequel of sorts called The Zombie Survival Guide have both hit The New York Times bestsellers list. While the printed books business is declining, it is hard to ignore the millions of Frankenstein novels sold in the past.

Other books include The Walking Dead, which is sold in novel formats as well. Seth-Grahame Smith added zombies to Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. There is Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin and Dust and Decay for zombie apocalypse fans. In non-fiction, there is the newly released Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human book co-edited by Sarah Lauro which explores the history, change and impact of the zombie in society. Amazon.com lists 8,772 titles in the books category. If you include all of the Frankenstein books as well, then the zombie book market could easily be worth $100 million in sales through time.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Conventions, Events, and Walks

Zombie economy: $10 million

A zombie walk? It is exactly what it sounds like. A bunch of adults and kids paying to dress up as the walking dead and walk with a crowd of make-believe zombies -- usually to raise money for a cause. Almost every major city in America now has zombie walks, and some cities have more than one. There have even been some zombie runs. Better yet, zombie pub crawls.

If you can imagine it, there are colleges around America having zombie events and even lectures on the zombie theme. In October, there was ZomBCon in Seattle, a convention dedicated to the undead, with all that a convention has to offer: booths, a horror film fest, celebrity signings, lectures and a prom night party ball. There are also haunted houses. A combined value for all these activities of $10 million may be extremely understated.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.


The Digital World



Zombie economy: $10 million

Maybe art should be under merchandise, but it is unique enough that it deserves special recognition. There may be at least 100 professional artists out there creating zombie art. Zombiemania, a documentary about zombie movies and other things zombie, featured Rob Secchetto, a zombie artist. He will take any personal portrait sent to him and turn it into a 9″ × 11″ full colour zombie portrait or sketch at zombieportraits.com. He also has other art. In a telephone interview, Secchetto noted how his orders come from people of all ages. There are also do-it-yourself programs that allow a user to turn their own photos into zombie portraits. This is such a small niche of the zombie culture that it is only being assigned a value of $10 million for an industrywide value. We have undercounted every other aspect of the zombie genre, but this one is harder to pinpoint without tracking down every artist who does zombie art for the public and for commercial or production purposes.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

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