Set and prop designers play a major role in films. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2011, the average set and prop designer made an annual income of about $54,890, a number that has surely risen over the years. Without sets solely designed for film and important movie props like personalized prop money, movies would be nowhere as good as they are. So to appreciate the work of set and prop designers, let’s explore a few of the most outrageous and expensive movie sets built throughout history.
Tim Burton’s Batman, 1989: While there have been numerous Batman films over the years, none have a set that quite compares to the 1989 film. While Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson certainly gave outstanding performances, it was really the set of Gotham City that made the movie great. The city was created using both full-size set pieces and scale models. The entire city took up the space of 18 sound stages at Pinewood Studios and was built by 400 crewmembers in six months. The set ended up being one of the largest and expensive ones in years, but was worth the final result.
Titanic, 1997: The ship in Titanic was almost a full-scale replica of the ocean liner, measuring out 800 feet long. Not only did the boat have to be built, but the ship sat in a 17 million gallon tank that took in water from the ocean for the ship to float in. Despite the filmmakers saving some money by choosing to only construct the starboard side of the ship, the movie set still amounted to $20.3 million. While there were digital and scale models that were used for certain shots throughout the film, the budget continued to rise throughout the making of the movie. But the $2 billion the movie brought in at the box office surely helped cover some of the expenses.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 2001 – 2003: The Lord of the Rings movies have some of the most impressive movie sets even today. The original Hobbiton set took up 14 acres so that 37 Hobbit holes, a double-arched bridge, and an inn could be constructed. Grant Major, the production designer, even went as far to plant vegetables and flowers a year before they began filming the movies. Because nothing was fake or plastic, the set truly felt like an open, real village — and it was worth the $281 million production budget.
These are just a few of the many infamous movie sets we’ve seen over the years. And all movie-lovers can surely be grateful that production designers go to such great lengths to give us spectacular movie sets to enjoy.
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