6

It's a pretty big operation. Between the studio, the actors, supplying the city, and so on, what would be the cost per year? Also, did they ever explain how they pay for the thing? That'd be a lot of Burger King commercials...

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    Product placement FTW? – Ghanima Nov 17 '15 at 19:42
  • Presumably, it was from how popular the show was. I can't access quotes and images at the moment, but I'm guessing there's evidence the show had Superbowl-like amounts of viewers, except (nearly) around the clock... or at least periodically. – DoubleDouble Nov 17 '15 at 19:44
  • Google has us caught in a thousand independent Truman Shows -- seems to be working out financially for them so far. – zxq9 Nov 18 '15 at 0:32
14

TL;DR; The show would probably cost around US$3.5 billion per year to operate, and gets its money from advertisements and product placements.

The money, as with all television shows, comes from advertising. Not only would they be able to get commercial money, but there were wonderful opportunities for product placement as seen here (at about the 0:20 mark):

There were lots of these throughout the movie, which would easily be enough to fund whatever they wanted.

We can also see some merchandising take place, as we see various items with his likeness:

In reference to how much it would cost, that exact question was asked (and answered) on Reddit, and the total was worked out to be about $3.5B/year.

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    I suspect that the show started with more humble beginnings, just a few studio rooms which were Truman's life and the fact that the show was so wildly successful let them build the life-sized soundstage that they use before he got old enough to know better. Otherwise, his life might have been the 2015 Room... – FuzzyBoots Nov 17 '15 at 20:07
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    @SeanDuggan Yes, the show started with Truman being adopted as a baby, with cameras on his thing-that-hangs-above-the-crib-which-i-cannot-remember-the-word-for. At that stage, there would be no need for anything very elaborate. As he got older, they began construction on the "city", which was possible because of the popularity of the show. – Dave Johnson Nov 17 '15 at 20:09
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    @DaveJohnson: Are you trying to think of "mobile"? – GreenMatt Nov 17 '15 at 21:02
6

I am unable to find the size of the dome via Google. Let's put it at 2 miles in diameter, and less than a mile tall (pictures don't indicate that it is a full hemisphere).

This would be the largest structure of its kind by far.

The current tallest structure is the Burj Khalifa at about half a mile high. The construction of a skyscraper is a bit different (and a more well-understood engineering feat... we've built other smaller ones for a century at this point). Its price tag is between $1 billion and $2 billion. This is not atypical, many other large scale engineering projects are in the single digit billions, even into the low double digits (Boston's Big Dig, etc.).

Then there's China's Three Gorges dam. This might be a better comparison, given its scale and constraints. The price tag on that is north of $20 billion, on up towards $30b depending on who you ask.

Given the novelty of the dome and its unique challenges, it's difficult to believe this isn't double digit billions in cost. Call the generous estimate as $10 billion.

So, if Truman is expected to live until 75, how long do they think the show will be a hit? Will people tune in to watch him wasting away in a nursing home? Dunno. But let's say they expect him to be lucrative for 50 years...

Even with a 50 year loan on that $10b, even if they get 1% interest we're talking something like $255 million per year in payments.

The cast (except Truman) is somewhat small. Lots of extras and so forth. So costs for them are probably comparable to some other network show.

But we have things like maintenance on the giant dome/stage. The size of the crews to do that work. Supplying an entire town with homes, cars, necessities. If 2000 people live there, what's the size of the economy itself there? Let's call that 600 households, at $100,000 per household/year. That's $60 million right there. And we haven't even gotten into the production crew yet (the people who script the show, as much as it is, producers, and the IT personnel who maintain all the cameras and the software to use them). This is probably several hundred people, minimum (a regular tv show today can have 100 if you count part-time people).

And I don't even know how to calculate the costs of the hand-wavey weather technology.

The cost for this show approaches (but maybe not exceeds) $1 billion per year.

However, I don't think this figure is realistic... we already have shows like Game of Thrones and Marco Polo at $100million/season, and Truman seems as if it should be another order of magnitude above what I've concluded (it can't be just ten times as expensive).

Though, this might be a matter of the innovation of amortizing a show's cost over 50 years, rather than paying year-to-year.

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    Remember that the cast and and some of the extras conceivably have to be paid to either live in the dome or be on-call nearly 24/7. – Rogue Jedi Nov 17 '15 at 23:18
  • The size of the dome seems to be about 8.5 to 10 miles. – SQB Feb 13 '18 at 11:31
  • According to the answer referenced by @SQB which shows a satellite photo of the studio, it is located in some valuable real estate within the city limits of LA as far as one can determine. I wonder if it is so good to compare the dam to the studio when it would seem that the site cost for the dam would not be as high, hectare-for-hectare, as this enormous structure in the middle of LA. Even granting that some cities were moved for the sake of the dam. In the fixed running cost, include property taxes. – cardiff space man Aug 19 '19 at 19:38
5

Some additional footage on the DVD sheds light on the sheer volume of product placement that occurs during the normal filming of the show.

Truman's "wife" Meryl is apparently so well paid for her work as a spokesmodel that her income is into the billions of dollars.

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    It always made me wonder what they would do if Truman wouldn't like something they were trying to advertise: "Try this brand new coffee!" "It sucks, its the most vile coffee I ever had!"... and somewhere there whole company crashes on stock market. – Yasskier Dec 6 '16 at 2:43
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    @Yasskier - "A word about product placement on the show. If Truman played happily with, say, a “Snug-a-bug,” that toy’s sales broke records. But if he didn’t like the “Wiggly-Twiggly” and threw it across the room in front of the mothers of the world, that company would inevitably have to withdraw the toy from the market. It was a risk placing a product on “The Truman Show,” but the rewards could be staggering." - An Introduction to The Truman Show by Director Peter Weir – Valorum Aug 17 '19 at 14:00
  • So not only do they have to build a structure on par with the largest ever created, they have to pay their cast members billions of dollars at the very least? And this is funded by companies paying for advertising that is as likely to do harm as good? – Adamant Dec 24 '19 at 0:16

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