‘Lost’ Pilot Cost Up To $14 Million to Make Because of 1 Prop

Making a television pilot can be a costly process. Showrunners have a vested interest in making their pitch as interesting as possible, while still trying to save some money when they can. Over the years, a few particular TV pilots have become notorious for how expensive they were to produce. One of these pilots ultimately was optioned out and went on to become one of television’s longest-running and most successful shows, with new fans binging on reruns to this very day. Lost, in particular, had an expensive pilot because of a prop.

When did the pilot episode of ‘Lost’ debut?

The cast of 'Lost' in the season 1 premiere.
The cast of ‘Lost’ in the season 1 premiere. | Reisig and Taylor/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

In September 2004, the pilot episode of Lost debuted on television. The name of the two-part episode was simply “Pilot,” with the second part of the episode premiering one week after the first.

Directed by famed writer/director J.J. Abrams, “Pilot” told the story of a group of people who survive the crash landing of Oceanic Flight 815. Waking up on a mysterious island, the survivors must contend with the reality of their new situation, all while piecing together their memories of the crash itself — and what led to it.

A story that took years to develop and write, the pilot episode of Lost was one of the most-watched television pilots of all time. Viewers were drawn in by the mystery of the crash, as well as the exotic location.

With critics praising the series early on, Lost went on to become an iconic television show, running for over six years and garnering thousands of fans around the world. 

How much did the pilot episode of ‘Lost’ cost to make?

Showrunners were dedicated to creating a totally original vision with Lost — which could explain why the pilot episode reportedly cost so much to produce and film. According to E! Online, the pilot episode of Lost was the most expensive television pilot to date, at the time that it was filmed in 2004. It was said to cost between $10 million and $14 million, over double the average cost of a television pilot at that time.

Much of the cost, according to E! Online, came down to one particular prop. Showrunners, intent on creating a sense of realism even in the midst of a fantasy world, utilized a decommissioned Lockheed 1011 to represent the downed crew of Oceanic Flight 815.

The plane was painstakingly updated and dressed to fit the show’s scenario, ultimately adding an incredible touch to the show. Filmed on location in Hawaii, Lost was optioned right away, and went on to become one of the most popular TV shows of all time. 

How long did ‘Lost’ run on television?

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Not only was the pilot episode of Lost very expensive, but the show itself remained notoriously costly to produce as the years went on. In fact, individual episodes were said to cost around $4 million each to film, mainly because of the large cast employed by the series.

The series went off the air in 2010, after six successful years, and remains very popular in reruns to this day.

In fact, there has been talks of a reboot in recent years, with longtime fans clamoring for even more the mystery and intrigue that made the original series so famous. Still, it seems likely that none of the original cast members would be involved, either because their characters died on the show or the actors themselves moving on to other projects.

Whether there is an eventual reboot or not, fans will probably always remember the original series as one of the most influential television shows of all time.