Dinosaurs

How Much Would It Cost to Build Jurassic Park Anyway?

The sequel to 2015's wildly successful "Jurassic World" hits the theaters tomorrow, but to us, those first movies from back in the '90s always felt a lot more real. We're not the only ones — some paleontologists credit the original movie for the current dinosaur golden age since it inspired a generation of rabid dinosaur lovers. Of course, the dinos were all high-tech puppetry and computer animation, but what if they were real? If you brought dinosaurs back to life today, how much would your theme park cost (not including the inevitable plot-thickening disaster)?

Real Estate

Combined, the two islands from Jurassic Park (Isla Nublar, where the park is located, and Isla Sorna, where the dinosaurs are raised) cover about 42,000 acres of land. Based on estimates of the listings of private tropical islands, we came up with a rough estimate of about $163,000 per acre, making the cost of the real estate one of the most expensive must-haves on the list. You can't exactly build Jurassic Park on the mainland, so the islands alone will cost you big.

Estimated Cost: $6.8 billion

Staff

From what we saw in the original movie, Jurassic Park is able to run on a pretty minimal staff (although you run the risk of raptors running rampant). We get to see a handful of computer engineers, a couple of rooms' worth of geneticists, a lawyer, some paleontologists (we assume), and a mid-size team of animal handlers. Yeah, they probably could have stood to hire a few more people. Based on rough estimates from postings on Glassdoor, we'll guess their total staff costs were in the range of $8 million per year — and that's without the Jeff Goldblums.

Estimated Cost: $8 million annually

Dinosaur Clones

The pet-cloning company Viagen charges about $25 to $50 thousand to recreate a beloved animal, but that's not quite the same thing as engineering a long-extinct monster basically from scratch. For that, you might want to look at other attempts at bringing species back to life. Some estimates guess that resurrecting an extinct species would run about $360,000 per year. Now, multiply that by 50, because you can't just have a park full of Edmontosaurus. You'll also need to own a few amber mines to supply the genetic material, so let's tack on an additional $9 million.

Estimated Cost: $27 million

Animal Care

According to a behind-the-scenes look at the San Diego Zoo, which is one of the largest zoos in the world with more than 3,700 animals and 650 species, it costs $125,000 every month to keep the animals fed. When you factor in medical care, the park's annual costs rise to $307 million. Let's double that to reflect the fact that dinosaurs are a little bit bigger than modern animals and that Jurassic Park is big enough to fill two islands.

Estimated Cost: $614 million annually

Construction Costs

Jurassic Park is a lot of things — animal sanctuary, theme park, analogy for humanity's hubris. It's hard to think of a comparable construction project. But Shanghai Disneyland is probably in the same ballpark, at least. Opened in 2016, the enormous amusement park cost no less than $5.5 billion to complete. They might not have needed as many electric fences, but we're taking this number as our inspiration.

Estimated Cost: $5.5 billion

Operational Costs

According to the Walt Disney Company's 2017 financial report, the company spent approximately $1.336 billion on the operational costs of its six parks and resorts in the United States. Divide that by six, and you'll get the average annual cost of a major theme park. It's probably safe to assume Jurassic Park will come in higher than this, but for starters, let's use that number.

Estimated Cost: $223 million annually

Totaling It Up

There's a reason John Hammond kept emphasizing how he'd spared no expense — he really couldn't afford to. All told, Jurassic Park would have put him back about $13 billion just to get it in good enough shape to be completely destroyed by a passing storm and a scheming computer nerd. If he'd been more successful right away, then the investment would have grown with recurring costs of about $845 million per year afterward. Yikes — we'll just stick with the $15 movie ticket.

Can We Build a Real Jurassic Park?

Written by Reuben Westmaas June 19, 2018

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