America's $5 billion zombie industry: By the numbers

As zombies invade nearly all aspects of the arts and commerce, the undead are helping to keep the U.S. economy alive

A zombie flashmob: Zombies have inspired movies, Halloween costumes, and even Occupy Wall Street garb giving a boost to the near-dead economy.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner)

America is in the midst of a zombie renaissance, says Torie Bosch at Slate. It's no coincidence that "the undead have gone from lowbrow guilty pleasure to the favored monster of the erudite" just as the economy slipped into malaise, and then recession. As a pop-culture and marketing theme, "zombies are the perfect representation of the fiscal horror show" we're living through, especially for endangered white-collar workers who feel like the walking dead. Ironically, zombies' "contribution to Main Street's economy is very much alive," feeding more than $5 billion into U.S. cash registers in recent years, and even more globally, says Jon C. Ogg at 24/7 Wall Street. A guide, by the numbers:

$5.74 billion

Total U.S. "zombie economy," as calculated by 24/7 Wall Street

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$2.5 billion

Value of all zombie-themed movies over the past decade — a number 24/7 Wall Street says is probably "a massive understatement"

$600 million

International box office haul for the Will Smith zombie hit I Am Legend (2007)

$600 million

International box office take for Milla Jovovich's four "sexed up" Resident Evil zombie movies (2002-2010)


The year George Romero made Night of the Living Dead, the "granddaddy of zombie films" (which is royalty-free, so doesn't add much to the zombie economy)


The year William Seabrook's novel The Magic Island hit U.S. shores, introducing zombies to America

7 million

Number of viewers for last week's season opener of the "not terribly compelling" zombie TV show The Walking Dead

$2.5 billion

Value of all zombie-themed video games, including arcade and computer versions and smartphone apps

46 million

Copies sold of Resident Evil video games, generating a "low-ball" value of $1.3 billion

8 million

Copies sold of Doom video games

$550 million

Value of zombie costumes and other gear, including $500 million in Halloween costumes (over 4 years) and $50 million in T-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise


Number of zombie products sold at

$10 million

Estimated value of all zombie walks, pub crawls, conventions, and other events requiring zombie get-ups


Number of zombies at a recent zombie walk in France

$30 million

"Grossly understated" value of zombie-related music, art, and social media, including Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, "Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera," personalized 9"-by-11" zombie portraits by "zombie artist" Rob Sacchetto, and the Zombie Music Fest in Grand Forks, N.D.

Sources: 24/7 Wall Street, BlackBook, CNBC, LAist, Slate, USA Today

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