In “Home Alone,” the battle between 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) and two thieves known as the Wet Bandits has played out on screens around the world every Christmas since the film’s release in 1990.
And each year, for some viewers, the McCallisters’ grand house and lifestyle inspire its own tradition: wondering just how rich this family is.
The New York Times turned to economists and people interested in film to find the answer to this question.
Early in the film, one of the burglars, Harry (Joe Pesci), tells his Wet Bandit friend Marv (Daniel Stern) that their biggest target is the McCallister house in a wealthy neighborhood.
“That’s it, Marv; it’s silver tuna,” says Harry, before speculating that the house contains many “first-class goods” including VCRs, stereos, very fine jewelry and “the odd marketable securities.”
The house is the best clue to how much money the McCallisters have.
Silver tuna, or its exterior, is located at 671 Lincoln Ave. in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the United States. A real-world home at. realtor.com. It looks like it has enough space for Kevin and his four siblings to each have their own room, but it can also accommodate an army of visitors.
According to economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, in 1990 housing was affordable only for the top 1% of household incomes in Chicago, and that would remain the case today.
Economists — Max Gillet, senior research analyst; Cindy Hull, vice president and interim head of the financial markets group; and senior business economist Thomas Walstrum made the decision after looking at data in the Chicago metropolitan statistical area for the years 1990 to 2022, including household incomes, home property value, then-current mortgage rates and typical taxes and insurance.
Working under the assumption that the McCallisters spent no more than 30% of their income on housing, the economists also determined that the home would be affordable for a household with an income of $305,000 in 1990 (about $665,000 in 2022).
According to Zillow’s estimate for the “Home Alone” home, a similar home in mid-2022 will cost about $2.4 million. Economists said a home of that value would be affordable for a household with an income of $730,000, which is in the top 1% of households in the Chicago area.
“Home Alone” never explains what the parents do for work.
On the Internet, where this question comes up frequently, some people have suggested that Kate McCallister is a fashion designer because there were several models in the house; this later featured in one of Kevin’s attempts to trick the thieves into thinking it wasn’t the case. , home alone.
Todd Strasser, who wrote the official novelizations of “Home Alone” and two sequels, said in an interview that he was not closely supervised by the producers. For him, the essence of the guidance was: “Here is the scenario; do whatever you want.”
So in the book, he said that models made Kevin’s mother a fashion designer and Kevin’s father a businessman because it was a “safe bet.”
He said it did not occur to him to explain in detail how the McCallisters obtained their money; he thought they were “upper middle class” but not “super rich”.
There are other trappings of the family’s significant but not stratospheric wealth: They wear nice clothes and rent multiple vans to take them to the airport, yes, but when Kate tries to bribe an elderly couple into giving up their tickets to Paris so they can get home, she offers jewelry and cash but her Rolex implies that it may be fake.
“I don’t know how much the McCallisters make, but it sure adds a lot to my bank account,” Strasser said.
A fan theory suggests that Peter McCallister is involved in organized crime. According to this theory, the McCallister home was specifically targeted as a form of vendetta, and Kevin’s brutal violence against the burglars was the product of an upbringing exposed to criminal activity.
The Times could not ignore this theory.
A widely cited data point regarding the family’s wealth is their trip to Paris for Christmas.
Flying 15 people to Paris is expensive, especially with four adults flying first class, but Kevin’s family isn’t paying for the plane tickets. Early in the film, Kate McCallister tells a police officer, who is actually Harry in disguise, that her husband’s brother paid for the flight.
That brother is Uncle Rob. He’s a minor figure in the first film, but the few times he’s mentioned show he’s loaded. He pays for the ticket and has an apartment in Paris that has a clear view of the Eiffel Tower and can somehow accommodate 15 family members. (The film’s sequel, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” also suggests that Uncle Rob is rich, but this analysis is based on the first film only.)
The third brother, Uncle Frank (the bad one), lives in Ohio and travels with his family from Illinois to Paris. We don’t learn anything about his income, but we know he’s cheap. He avoids paying the $122.50 pizza bill at his brother’s house in Illinois. While eating first class on the plane, he tells his wife to put the crystal salt and pepper shakers in her bag.
This behavior may indicate that he is rich. Theft was “significantly more common” among people with family incomes over $70,000, according to a 2008 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Robert Bulman, a sociology professor at Saint Mary’s College of California who studies the representation of teenagers and high schools in cinema, said Uncle Frank is a typical adult character in the world of John Hughes, who wrote and produced “Home Alone.”
Hughes said that the common feature of his films is dramatic tension fueled by the conflict between teenagers and adults, which almost always ends in the youth’s favor.
He noted that class tensions often come to the fore in Hughes’s teen movies, such as “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink,” and move the story forward.
“His stories often support the perspective of a working-class kid or, say, a poor kid trying to reach a wealthier peer group,” Bulman said. “But in ‘Home Alone,’ it’s definitely a triumph for Kevin as a kid, as well as for Kevin as a rich kid defending his impressive castle.”
“Home Alone” set decorator Eve Cauley was responsible for decor such as furniture and wallpaper inside the McCallister home, which was shot on sets built at a local high school.
The house was not expensively furnished but deliberately had a “majestic, luxurious look,” he said in an email.
Cauley said navy blue and dusty pink were popular interior design colors at the time the movie was shot. But she took inspiration from Norman Rockwell paintings and antique Christmas cards to use saturated reds, greens and gold tones in the family home.
Hughes told him he wanted the house to have a “timeless look.” “Since his goal in making movies is to entertain the audience and bring them joy, he told me that he likes his movies to look a little nicer and cleaner than reality,” he said.
Cauley also offered some advice for those looking for answers about family income.
“In my opinion, fans arguing about their parents’ income or housing cost should just enjoy the movie instead,” he said.
“After all, John Hughes and director Christopher Columbus created this heartwarming and funny film as audience entertainment to boost morale for the holidays. “It boosted morale and it still does.”
c.2023 New York Times Corporation