'Avengers' Damage to Manhattan Would Cost $160 Billion, Disaster Expert Estimates (Exclusive)

7:53 AM PST 05/09/2012 by Jordan Zakarin
Marvel

The wreckage in Midtown Manhattan, all told, would top the financial carnage of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese tsunami.

Just as it has been for centuries of immigrants and desperately lost, subway map-reading tourists, New York City is a favorite destination for angry, carnage-minded mutants, monsters and aliens -- though they intend to destroy the city's landmarks, not capture them in Instagram photos.

The latest invaders are the Chitauri, the shape-shifting aliens that descend upon Manhattan in the climactic battle in The Avengers. And with their starships and smaller, strikingly Kawasaki Jet Ski-like racers, they certainly succeed in wreaking havoc on the city. To walk out of a screening of the movie into the light of Park Avenue is a shock, with its clean streets and undented skyline, so to get a sense of just how much damage the Chitauri would have caused had the film been real life, The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Kinetic Analysis Corp., one of the leading disaster-cost prediction and assessment firms in the nation.

In an exclusive report for THR, KAC, led by Chuck Watson and Sara Jupin, employed computer models used for predicting the destruction of nuclear weapons and concluded that the physical damage of the invasion would be $60 billion-$70 billion, with economic and cleanup costs hitting $90 billion. Add on the loss of thousands of lives, and KAC puts the overall price tag at $160 billion. 

For context, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks cost $83 billion, Hurricane Katrina cost $90 billion, and the tsunami in Japan last year washed away $122 billion.

VIDEOS: Behind the Scenes of Marvel's The Avengers

Although many buildings in the fight's East Midtown arena suffered extensive structural damage, most were limited to the more superficial destruction of windows, facade and some interiors. Those buildings that had their tops crushed, though, would be especially costly and time-consuming to fix, as would be Grand Central Station, through which a warship crashed.

"The extensive damage to Grand Central Terminal could prove highly disruptive, depending on the subsurface damage to the subway system," KAC notes. "Although such damage is unlikely, as the 9/11 events showed, collapsing buildings can cause significant damage to subsurface infrastructure such as gas, communications and electrical systems. Detailed site surveys will be required to assess the state of the subterranean infrastructure."

KAC also predicts that liability would be a major issue. Who, exactly, will have to pay for the damage? S.H.I.E.L.D., they note, is likely protected as a government agency, though probes eventually will look into its role in predicting, preventing and responding to the invasion -- just as they looked into the Ghostbusters.

"Most insurance policies have special provisions for acts of war, civil unrest or terrorism," KAC adds. "Given the involvement of individuals considered deities in some cultures (Thor, Loki), there is even the potential to classify the event as an 'act of God,' though that designation would be subject to strenuous theological and legal debate."

Watson said he was surprised by a lower-than-expected total. "Compared to the aliens in Independence Day, for example, these guys were amateurs," he told THR. "Of course, the Chitauri/Loki alliance were more interested in conquest and ruling, whereas the ID aliens were just looking for lunch or something."

Still, with a $700 million two-week gross to protect, Marvel and Disney are lucky all the damage happened onscreen.

You can read the whole report here.

Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin

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