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Conveniently Empty Building

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"How bad is the economy of Angel Grove considering they have an abandoned warehouse district that always seems to be destroyed?"

When a building in a modern action film or series is blown up or otherwise totaled, there will be explicitly no people or plot-critical items inside when the destruction hits.

We've all seen a movie where a missile flies past the hero directly into a window and causes a building to explode. Or a timer ticking down to zero on the immovable bomb in the basement of an office building. And gosh! Let's not forget the many, many fun cartoons or anime where skyscraper after skyscraper after building is just freaking totaled. But is there ever anyone in the building?

Nope. It was conveniently empty. No carnage.

Whenever a writer gets his hands on a special effects budget, it seems that several buildings suddenly become conveniently empty - inevitably leading to explosive goodness and giant fireballs. This is dictated by the Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics.

A probable reason is to keep villains (or even heroes when they end up getting their hands on something that goes boom in populated areas) from crossing the Moral Event Horizon and to prevent viewers from getting a Downer Ending. Or else it's to maintain Willing Suspension of Disbelief: while action films are supposed to be for high stakes, one tends to think harder about what the characters have been doing when people are seen dying ''en masse''. Unless it is clearly stated or visibly shown that there were no casualties one cannot be sure that it was empty after all.

After all, there was no holocaust on Endor.

Gritty, realistic war movies and crime films are more likely to show carnage from bombs exploding a building.

While the trope's name refers to buildings, examples can also include conveniently empty cars, boats, etc.

See related tropes: Abandoned Warehouse and Abandoned Area. Compare Not-So-Abandoned Building, which only seems empty.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This happens to a city in Pokémon Adventures. Then again, Lance does insinuate that there probably were a few people still in the city when he blew it up. Not that he cares.
  • The Pokémon: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages movie runs with this to the extreme. At no point during the clash between Legendaries does the viewer see any citizens running or even seeing the battle raging across the whole city. 95% of the buildings are empty. It's only during the final portion that a handful dozens of citizens even show up conveniently at the spot where the climax happens.
  • In the original American syndicated dub of Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta gives us this line after he and Nappa utterly destroy some real estate upon landing in the middle of a crowded city:
    "Too bad it's Sunday, those buildings would have been filled up tomorrow!"
    • How he knew it was Sunday, or why the buildings would be empty on a Sunday is never addressed. The death toll was just a little bit higher in the original version.
    • Minutes after landing Nappa decides to vaporize a large portion of the city they are in. We are later told by a reporter that the entire portion of the city had somehow been evacuated before it was destroyed. Despite the fact that hundreds of people were gathered around the impact crater seconds before the attack.
    • Still later, when reporters are filming Nappa's fight with the heroes, he turns and blows up one of the news choppers. The dub helpfully adds in one of the reporters shouting, "He blew up the cargo robot!" Parodied by The Abridged Series.
    "He blew up the cargo robot! (beat) And the cargo was people!
    • Played straight in the Buu saga, where there's nothing keeping the titular Buu and Gotenks from duking it out on an empty Earth (because Buu already killed everyone). At one point, Gotenks sends Buu flying, which results in several buildings also sent flying. Piccolo calls him out on it due to the possibility of Dragon Balls lingering around.
    • In the Android saga, this was going to be averted by the heroes suggesting to leave the city and fight Android 19 and 20 elsewhere. It is the subverted with Android deciding that destroying the city and everyone in it would give the fighters a place with no people. It is Harsher in Hindsight when it turns out that Android 20 is Doctor Gero. It would make sense if a robot couldn't understand the difference, but that reveal just made his actions even more unsettling.
  • One chapter of Karakuridouji Ultimo has Hana (A little girl about 5 or 6) and Eddie/Gluttony (A huge ass robot doll) try to get Yamato, the protagonist, to call out Ultimo (his robot doll) and fight them. They do so by destroying the school Gymnasium, which, sure enough, is empty. This is a bit odd considering that at any other given point in the series, there seems to be no problem with killing people off.
  • In Active Raid, this is done intentionally - The main character is a new member of the squad who wants to get them to cause less collateral damage - as mecha cops in Tokyo. Rin, the leader of the squad, arranges for the newbie, in her mecha, to fight an enemy near one of these. An attack that she thinks will stop the enemy ends up sending him through the beams of a building and collapsing the entire thing. She's horrified, until Rin lets her know that it was empty.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
    • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has the first time the cast was forced into battle in a Mid-Childa city, which had Subaru Lampshade Hanging the amount of damage that they were doing:
      Subaru: But is it okay for members of the Bureau to damage public facilities like this?
      Teana: Well, this place has long been abandoned anyway...
    • Subverted during the battle of Allston Sea in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Reflection. The heroes know that the building is empty, but still end up deliberately taking several attacks to keep it from being damaged.
  • Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne: Madoka's robot crash-lands in a conveniently empty lot (which had a house in it until a short time ago), avoiding the demise of any innocent buildings.
  • Bleach takes it even further with the Shinigami creating a dummy of Ichigo's hometown to prevent Aizen from turning the whole town and its inhabitants into the Royal Key. The original plot of the town is temporarily placed in Soul Society, however Aizen is able to reach the real town after curbstomping the Shinigami and destroying most of the fake town. Several people are killed when Aizen walks through town, but thanks to Ichigo's intervention, not much of the real town is lost.
    • Later on in the Fullbring Arc, Tsukishima taunts Ginjo by asking how many innocent people he just killed when Ginjo practically destroys a building while fighting. Ginjo then says he made sure to choose an abandoned building to fight at.
  • Subverted in Re:CREATORS when Mamika fires off her Magical Splash Flare in the real world, where people were definitely present. It's played painfully straight when she fights the Military Uniform Princess in the middle of town, where her last blast barely raised an eyebrow despite being shown to destroy the buildings they were centered around.
  • My Hero Academia
    • Discussed during a training simulation in an empty building. Bakugo is berated for using a blast that blew a large hole straight through several floors. Since the buildings in real-life villain attacks will most definitely not be empty, heroes should cause as little property damage as possible.
    • Downplayed in a later arc, where the heroes are fighting in a residential neighborhood that ends up nearly flattened. Since the attack took place during normal work hours, the number of casualties is relatively minimal because most people were out at work when the attack took place.
  • In Godzilla: Singular Point the kaiju chaotically attack buildings, vehicles and electronics, and the outbreak gets increasingly so intense they practically swarm the world. Despite this, no human casualties are reported or even seen besides Goro getting only injured and Li getting attacked by a Rodan.
  • In Promare a major battle takes place in a city, with numerous buildings being wrecked, but it's mentioned that all the civilians are "obviously" in underground shelters.
  • Justified in World Trigger, as the area around Border HQ (which is where they generally force all gates to appear), is an abandoned zone. Reactions range from Arashiyama Squad's belief that the houses still belong to someone and should be preserved, to Izumi's Destructive Savior tendencies.

    Comic Books 
  • This was extremely common in 1970's comic books. Typical scene: Superman lands next to an unknown evil-doer and tells him to stop doing whatever evil-thing he's evil-doing. Said bad guy then turns around and lands a killer punch on Superman, who flies backwards with such force that he crashes through three or four buildings, all to show how strong the bad guy is. Invariably, there will either be a "condemned" sign obviously visible in the frame in front of the buildings, or Superman will think to himself, "Thank goodness those buildings were abandoned/scheduled for demolition/new and not yet occupied, so no one was hurt!" Just how bad is the economy in Metropolis that there are condemned buildings everywhere?
    • It's still a common trope. In a more recent JLA storyline, Plastic Man (who was giant-sized in order to battle a giant-sized opponent) remarks that he's grateful for the bad economy, otherwise there'd be no abandoned buildings to smash.
    • Averted in Superman: Red Son, as Superman and Luthor's Bizzarro clone duke it out in downtown London, their fight causes Big Ben to collapse and Superman states that 258 people died, and after being punched through another city block, Superman narrates "a second later, one single second, and the body count tripled."
  • The Incredible Hulk: Some writers take this to absurd lengths. The Hulk could be a speck in a full-page of city-wide devastation, yet someone will maintain that no one was killed in the conveniently empty 20 city block radius.
    • Even more absurd in World War Hulk. New York is mostly leveled and a huge number of people remain despite evacuation orders. Despite this, it is specifically noted that no one was killed.
  • In a parody comic called What The—?!, one panel thoroughly lampshades the use of this trope in the Marvel Universe (and very nearly provides the Trope Namer before the Trope Namer in the process). Ironically, this particular example would make perfect sense in the canon universe: no non-super-powered urban dweller with half a brain would want to risk living or working in buildings neighboring a publicly known superhero base where someone is always picking a fight. The buildings' owners would also have long since abandoned them as unprofitable, leaving the city to demolish them.
  • Lampshaded in X-Factor vol. 2 #32, where Val Cooper makes an offer to X-Factor to work for the US government. They refuse, leave town, and to underscore the point, Madrox blows up their abandoned building when Val and her forces arrive, giving them just enough time to get out. Let's let Dr. Cooper sum up, after she catches up with Jamie a few months later in the epilogue:
    Val Cooper: I did some checking, Madrox. You owned that building you blew up. Even got the demolition clearances. Technically you broke no laws. But you figured by making a big demonstration, you'd show your team how tough you are, and scare me off besides. Except I don't scare, Madrox. Let me put it in a way that your film noir mind will understand: this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.
  • Played for laughs in an issue of Spider-Man. Spidey, who's sore about his recent trial separation from Mary Jane, sneaks into a building and vents his anger by spending a good while just trashing the place. After realising how much damage he's done, he sneaks out again as a crew arrive to demolish the place, only to watch it collapse before they can even get close to it. They then break for lunch.
  • Probably the most extreme example: Destroy, a one-off comic that features a super-sonic impact of a superman spoof into the center of New York, flattening buildings for multiple blocks, with no one hurt.
  • Heroes for Hire: In their first encounter, Iron Fist punches Luke Cage into the building across the road, which then immediately collapses. The narration takes a moment to assure viewers that the building was condemned and abandoned. Whether Danny knew that goes unspecified, as is whether the buildings next door were condemned as well.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda justifies this by having the Valley of Peace be evacuated before Tai Lung gets there. When he and Po have their throwdown in the city for the finale, no one is there, only seeing the last of the fight from a great distance in the surrounding hills.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: San Francisco has been emptied out by the government so the buildings damaged are empty — however, during the Golden Gate Bridge scene, the alien robot crunches up several conveniently empty cars. When B.O.B. moves the barriers to let the cars through, every other car on the bridge is occupied because they all drive away.
  • Megamind: Megamind and Tighten crash through one, though the roof and down through every floor.
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: While Joker is trying to blast the Batmobile with a Kill Sat, the beam passes over what seems to be an abandoned building. Originally, it was a full, operating movie theater, until the animators were forced to change it. Similarly, the commentary sarcastically notes that all the cars knocked off the road by the beam were empty robot-driven cars.
  • Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens: During the fight sequence between Way Big and a Way Big transformed Azmuth, both of them crush, raise and destroys several buildings with seemingly no victims and no one one waking up to see it in the whole city. What makes this example even weirder is that Gwen actually suggests moving the fight away from the city to avoid collateral damage, only to get completely ignored.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Justified in Fight Club. The Narrator is furious at Tyler Durden for the mass murder he's about to commit in Project Mayhem, which involves blowing up several office buildings. It's then explained that the buildings are completely empty, as it's the middle of the night, and all the people that would be working there at that time are members of their group. But they forget about the people on the streets (at night, but still), who would be hit by debris. Whoops!
  • Fast Five, full stop. One safe dragged behind two automobiles nearly leveled downtown Rio! In fairness, though, they drive the safe through a clearly occupied bank.
  • In The Matrix, both hotels where they meet happen to be a Conveniently Empty Building. The room they go to to answer the rotary phone also appears to be yet another one. Averted elsewhere, when the characters actively gun down innocent security guards, to prevent them from becoming bodies for Agents.
  • In Volcano, there is a finished but unoccupied condominium building conveniently located for being turned into a lava barricade. Furthermore, the building is conveniently owned by a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Averted in 2012. Jackson and his family are flying the plane through the crumbling Los Angeles, where you can see people falling out of the buildings and into the giant cracks in the crust. Of course with a Disaster Movie of such proportions the only way this could work would be if Earth was a conveniently evacuated planet.
  • In Blue Thunder, a Misguided Missile from an Air Force F-16 slams into a skyscraper during an aerial battle in the early evening hours. Aside from expressions of dismay by the various police and military personnel in charge, the incident appears completely forgotten about. So... was it Conveniently Empty or is this a blatant case of No Endor Holocaust? We may never know.
  • In the first American version of Godzilla (1998), several Misguided Missiles end up destroying the Chrysler Building, after the titular monster dodges them. The military men are more annoyed at missing the creature, while the Mayor of New York is a little more concerned about the fact that they just blew up the Chrysler Building. Since New York has been evacuated just prior to Godzilla showing up, there is nobody in the building.
  • In Die Hard, a security guard conveniently mentions that there's nobody in the building except the folks partying on Holly's floor. Good to know John can blow up elevator shafts without taking out any unsuspecting night-shift janitors or overnight painters and repair crews. This is partly justified by the fact that the movie takes place after-hours on Christmas in a building that's still under-construction on several floors, so it's perfectly plausible that all those people took the night off.
  • In The Other Guys, the cops finish a car chase in a stylish way that also results in the lobby of the Trump Tower blowing up in a giant fireball. Even if there were no bystanders hurt in the crossfire or when one of them hijacked an occupied bus and drove it through traffic into machine gun fire, at least the receptionist must have bought the farm there.
  • In the Wesley Snipes film The Art of War, the U.N. building is apparently manned by one security guard.
  • Justified in Pacific Rim. Evacuations are shown occurring throughout Hong Kong before the Kaiju Otachi and Humongous Mecha Gipsy Danger fight in the city. Director Guillermo del Toro said showing the city was empty was a major priority for the scene, since "I don't want people being crushed. I want the joy that I used to get seeing Godzilla toss a tank without having to think there are guys in the tank."
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel featured a massive amount of targeted destruction to Metropolis, an area that could house a football stadium got grounded to dust by the World Engine trying to convert Earth into a new Krypton. In contrast to the use of this trope, people are seen dying regularly and often shockingly. During Zod and Superman's big fight in the climax there is a significant amount of property damage but little indication that individuals are harmed. Zod shreds a seemingly empty office building with his heat vision to where it collapses into the street. Superman crashes into a parking garage and is thrown through several skyscrapers. Earlier in the film Superman is hit by a thrown train car into an empty Sears store in downtown Smallville, but he did tell the civilians that it wasn't safe and they should evacuate. But, notably, this was all an aversion as significant collateral damage WAS intended by the production team, a byproduct of people with the power and strength of Superman fighting each other.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sought to, in part, explore the repercussions of the destruction in Man of Steel. For starters, it shows the Superman and Zod fight from Bruce Wayne's perspective, and the building Zod destroyed with heat vision was Wayne Financial, and was NOT completely evacuated. But the climax uses this repeatedly when Doomsday goes on a rampage in Metropolis and is spotted up on top of Lexcorp's tower, the news reports express gratitude that it's well after the work day and the downtown is not packed to capacity. Moments later, Doomsday unleashes an energy wave that heavily damages numerous lit-up skyscrapers, indicating there are some people there, but fortuitously less than normal. Later on, Doomsday is shown crashing on Striker's Island in the bay, which Mission Control mentions is uninhabited. Then Batman lures him to the Gotham Port, and explains to Wonder Woman he knew the Port was abandoned due to his previous fight with Superman, and that is where the battle ends.
    • That said the Wayne Foundation is an inversion of this trope as the floor Superman and Zod were is shown to be empty in the first film but the second shows there were who still inside the building. So only the people on the lower floors thought to evacuate?
    • Zack Snyder's Justice League: The climax takes place in a Russian town that was abandoned after a nuclear meltdown happened 30 years ago. This allows for plenty of destruction with no risk of collateral damage.
    • Birds of Prey (2020): Strongly implied to be the case when Harley Quinn blows up the chemical plant due to it reminding her of the Joker too much, as it happens at night, and if she really did blow up a bunch of innocent workers the audience would almost certainly see it as a Moral Event Horizon.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers has the climactic Battle of New York take place all around the downtown area. On a few occasions we see Hulk rampage through occupied buildings, but the flying Leviathan creatures seem to crash through empty buildings, one brought down personally by Hulk and Thor. And then at the very end it is averted as the hundreds of candles seen during a brief memorial on the news are undoubtedly not for the Chitauri invaders that died.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, as he's battling the out-of-control Hulk, Tony spots an under-construction skyscraper which his scans indicate to be empty. In the middle of the day. While it's possible they fled when the Hulk showed up (or that it was the weekend), it's still pretty lucky. Tony immediately buys the building and directs the fight there, so that there won't even be any financial losses to anybody in the city, let alone loss of life.
  • MonsterVerse: Generally, before each battle that takes place in a major city, scenes are shown of people evacuating or taking shelter in purpose-built bunkers before the Kaiju arrive. The exception to this is Honolulu, which shattered the masquerade that had been keeping the kaiju hidden, and therefore there wasn't time or procedures in place to notify people to get the heck out of dodge before Godzilla and Hokmuto started throwing down in the middle of the airport.

  • The Dresden Files is inconsistent on this trope. Some days, like in Blood Rites, the building is Conveniently Empty. Other days, like Grave Peril it's packed to the gills with his enemies (and, potentially, of their innocent victims, who may or may not already have been dead—a nice source of angst for our hero). Either way, if a building can be burnt to the ground without hurting innocents, odds are Jim Butcher will see to it that it ends as a burnt husk.
  • Discussed and justified in That Hideous Strength since the destruction of Edgestow was orchestrated by angelic beings, who also arranged to clear the town ahead of time.
  • Animorphs had a tower disguised as an "office building," but which was really a kind of passageway for alien spacecraft to secretly travel from the sky to an underground base. Even though It Makes Sense in Context, and even though the tower is conveniently empty, the Animorphs' method of destroying the tower is still something that could never have been published after September 11. (It involves deliberately crashing an airplane.)
  • Invoked by the Rebels in Wedge's Gamble; when they steal a construction droid to use as a distraction, they make sure to sound evacuation alarms so that any buildings in their path will be (hopefully) empty by the time the droid reaches them—after all, they're trying to take Coruscant intact with as few civilian casualties as possible.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Deconstructed. While the first magic-built building to collapse due to completely running out of mana is a small tower used for storage, the possibility of the same thing happening to similar buildings that are not empty is taken extremely seriously.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Batwoman (2019). Averted in "Prior Criminal History". When chased by a swarm of infected bats, Batwoman has to find a place to trap them and Kill It with Fire. She rejects Luke Fox's suggested Abandoned Warehouse (too far away) and a derelict subway (because it's being used by the homeless). She then forces the driver out of an unoccupied prison bus and uses that instead, but even then the explosion is too near a homeless person whom she has to shield with her body.
  • Smallville: A number of times. The most serious one is when Clark burns down a pair of twin skyscrapers with heat vision.
  • Power Rangers
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers once commented that the giant robot-kaiju battles took place in the "abandoned warehouse district". Whether it was a warehouse district that had been abandoned due to weekly giant robot-kaiju battles, or a district that had been set aside at some point for the express purpose of being full of empty warehouses in case of giant robot-kaiju battles, is left up to the viewer.
      • A season 2 episode of Mighty Morphin' has a conveniently empty PLANET. Which has been so for millions of years. When the Rangers need to get the Mcguffin to transfer powers to new Rangers they go to the deserted planet. It's deserted to avoid Inferred Holocaust when Zedd ends up blowing up the entire planet.
    • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, even a giant city-sized spaceship that had only been constructed recently, containing a cityscape inside it, had an abandoned warehouse district for the robot-kaiju battles.
      • For this last one, it can be explained: an intentionally closed biotope for decades or even centuries to travel from a stellar system to another, with a large human society inside probably means there will be some population grown. So this was houses for population grown. Toooo baaaad!
    • In Power Rangers S.P.D., one monster exclaimed "I hate empty buildings!" as it knocked one down. Another episode of the same series has a monster fire at a building, blowing it up to drop rubble at the Rangers, and the Yellow Ranger says "Lucky no one was in that building!" (No, there was no sign that anybody checked, or could have checked.)
    • This trope is becoming increasingly averted in recent seasons, most notably in Power Rangers Megaforce, where the fights and monster attacks are clearly shown taking place in populated areas.
      • Don't think Super Sentai never does this, either. In Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, a villain has hijacked the most powerful of the mechs. When he turns it to obliterate a few buildings, Doggie Kruger quickly orders an evacuation. Apparently, a massive evacuation was completed in the seconds it took for the robot to turn ninety degrees and fire. That's some kind of record.
      • Deka's also got a monster who was sympathetic (seen trashing cars early on, it turns out a non-evil alien was framed and not actually the Monster of the Week. He hates cars because his wife and child were killed in a car accident.) who escaped the Rangers by blowing up a building to drop rubble at them (in fact, this scene is the source of the footage for the "Lucky no one was in that building" SPD moment.) We get no such line. However, the whole point of the character is that he didn't kill the one person who died earlier in the episode... and we have him committing an act that would realistically have a body count in the several hundred! Nobody commenting on it makes it worse, really.
    • Naturally, both PR and the Super Sentai original have many, many, MANY instances - fewer in PR post-9/11 but they're there - of buildings being annihilated during giant robot-kaiju battles. The fact that it'd mean thousands of people were also annihilated often goes unmentioned. The otherwise-wacky Engine Sentai Go-onger was especially bad about it. Hammer monster strikes the ground, several blocks' worth of downtown buildings crumble to piles of concrete instantly, nobody seems to care.
    • Averted in one episode of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger which features a young boy whose father died in a recent monster attack.
    • Enforced in an episode of Tokumei Sentai Go Busters as a news anchor on Frank's 2000-Inch TV reports on buildings being evacuated before the Megazord's arrival.
    • Also averted in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue / Kyūkyū Sentai GoGoV, where much attention is given to the heroes rescuing civilians and trying to prevent fatalities from the demons' attacks. Since they're all rescue workers, it makes sense— the Pink Ranger's Zord is even built for transporting civilians out of the way en masse.
  • The Doctor Who special "The Next Doctor" subverts this when an enormous Cyberman begins to fall, and the Doctor has to keep it from destroying the Inconveniently Occupied Buildings.
  • Subverted on Banshee when crime kingpin Kai Proctor decides to send a message to the new tribal chief by blowing up the under-construction Indian Casino. Proctor is the kind of guy who would have made sure that construction was shut down for the day and that the construction site was empty. However, right as he is about to blow the building up we find out that the mayor has trespassed on the site and is sitting inside the building. Even when you make sure that the building is conveniently empty, you cannot be sure that someone will not just wander in attracted by the emptiness.
  • Discussed in the first episode of Justified. A new recruit to Boyd Crowder's white supremacist gang suggests a certain federal building as the target for a bombing the gang is planning. Crowder knows that the building is empty due to a remodel, which causes him to suspect the recruit might be an undercover agent; the government might view the destruction of an empty building as an acceptable sacrifice in exchange for having a mole in the gang.
  • Comes up frequently in Highlander, in which any given episode has an approximately 40 per cent chance of ending with a climactic duel between Duncan MacLeod and the Villain of the Week in a random empty warehouse, factory, or parking lot, which is then devastated by the loser's Quickening. Just how they always manage to find an empty building in the middle of Paris is best not thought about too much. (Admittedly, the combination of swordfighting and sudden pyrotechnics does mean that both parties see the need to keep this private to avoid interference and later trouble with the law, and as such, likely to keep an eye out for such locations thus making this trope at least (flimsily) logical.)
  • An unusual variation occurs in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect" when Enterprise vents the atmosphere of the main shuttlebay as an emergency means of maneuvering to avoid a collision. There was apparently no one in the shuttlebay at the moment, either out of convenient luck or because it was evacuated during the tumultuous events leading up to it.
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake abandons his post to follow a hunch about a serial arsonist. Turns out he was wrong, and the arsonist burns down the building he was supposed to be watching. Fortunately, it's just an abandoned lard factory.
  • The final battle in season 3 of Stranger Things completely wrecks the Starcourt Mall. Luckily, because it's the Fourth of July, it's closed and completely empty except for our heroes and the Mind Flayer.
  • A variant applied to the villains happens routinely in Kamen Rider Fourze (one of the Lighter and Softer installments of the franchise): The Zodiarts are people (usually school kids) who use Evil Switches to become monsters, but when they reach their final stage, they expel their human form (who is seemingly unconscious until the fight is over). This means that Fourze can destroy the monster in a spectacular fashion without the guilt of murder.

    Video Games 
  • First Encounter Assault Recon: The Auburn District of Fairport is entirely abandoned by the general population. Anyone who lived there claims sickness, nightmares and ghosts for moving out of there. There is a reason for this underneath the surface.
    • The areas around the Auburn district are shown to have not been so abandoned, however - you find bodies turned to ash and then the ghosts of victims of the nuclear explosion all over most of the urban areas in FEAR 2.
  • Not so much conveniently empty buildings as conveniently empty starships, but in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Laharl singlehandedly annihilates an armada of 2 million ships sent to attack the Netherworld. It's all right though, because as Etna notes, he just happened to allow all of the crews to escape before destroying their ships. Flonne sees this as further proof that he is awakening to The Power of Love. Laharl, for his part, makes one of his customary excuses for this.
  • Seemingly averted in Bangai-O. Every time a building is destroyed (for the purpose of raising the high score), screams can be heard. Not that anyone cares.
  • All of the buildings, rooftops, tunnels etc. Faith makes her way through in Mirror's Edge are completely empty (except for the police and security trying to kill her).
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you raid a 24 hour news organization which one would naturally expect to have a graveyard shift. No one is there but baddies, and after reading people's emails explaining a sudden evacuation prior to your arrival, it foreshadows the coming reveal.
  • One stage in Mega Man Legends takes place in an "Abandoned Warehouse District"; which has a Humongous Mecha attack you; and it levels any building in between you and it. Interestingly, damage to other buildings can occur in similar attacks earlier in the game. While no people die in these attacks for some reason, it's in the player's best interest to prevent this as it takes your time and money to rebuild them. The exception is the City Hall building in the first attack; it is explicitly stated that the Mayor and a few others are still inside, and letting it get destroyed results in a Non-Standard Game Over.
    • The first boss battle against Tron Bonne in the sequel takes place in the middle of a small village, which for some reason is completely empty. Like the first game, all of the buildings can be destroyed in the fight. After she's defeated, all of the villagers reappear out of nowhere and you can optionally pay for any repairs.
      • The justification in Legends is that Kattleox managed to get advance warning of the Bonnes' arrival, and ordered an evacuation (which can be noticed on the player's way out to talk with Roll, as the main area of the city is completely absent of people). Unfortunately, the City Hall area was hit before the Mayor and the others could get out. As for Legends 2, considering that some Servbots can be seen on landing near Pokte Village, it's likely the villagers found a place to hide (as to where, though, considering there's only the Mayor's house and the ruins...)
  • Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure takes this to absurd extents. Even when Phantom R goes to world-famous Parisian landmarks like Notre Dame, Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower mid-day, absolutely no tourists or civilians are around to see him do things like find the Dragon Crown or a secret entrance into the catacombs or fight with the Chevaliers Diaboliques. Even when the Eiffel Tower gets struck by lightning, there is no one in it other than him.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Neo Bowser Castle appears and Antasma demonstrates its death ray/disintegrator weapon on some islands, completely destroying them. Good job no one happened to actually be living on these islands or visiting them at the time, despite this being a popular tourist destination. Although an NPC remarks that a bunch of rare plants and animals were killed by the laser.
    • Additionally, during the Earthwake boss battle in Dreamy Wakeport, Luigi and the boss end up knocking each other flying through various buildings via their attacks. Justified, though, since Dreamy Wakeport is, like most Dream World areas, fairly desolate (And what little "lives" there is vague as to whether it's actually sapient or just imaginary).
  • Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs also has island destruction. The first thing the Societea do with their ancient superweapon is display their power by vaporizing one of the smaller local islands. While it does have a small Pokemon population, they were all evacuated anyway thanks to the emergency boats Booker had built and left on the island, making it only a loss of geography and plantlife. Later on, Dr. Edward attempts to vaporize a much larger and very inhabited island, but by that point the weapon has been sabotaged anyway, failing.
  • Any and all "civilian buildings" in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, and really any RTS with Garrisonable Structures, conspicuously lack any civilians. In some missions, it's explained that the area in question is already under evacuation orders, but that still doesn't cover all the surprise attacks and other circumstances.
  • When Yamato explains that you'll be shooting down the massive Septentrione Alioth in Devil Survivor 2, it's pointed out that this will surely kill anyone in the city of Sapporo, where it will crash. Yamato then reveals that everyone in Sapporo is already dead, due to the demons. Maybe not so "convenient". And maybe also not so "empty" — it's suggested that Yamato was lying to make sure everyone was on board with the plan, since the alternative was to let Alioth destroy the tower holding back the Void. When confronted about this, he explicitly refuses to clarify one way or the other, since the outcome was the same either way.
  • In Inazuma Eleven 2, the aliens come down and suddenly attack Raimon Jr. High with soccer balls of mass-destruction. Their assault on the school happens in the middle of the day, and students can be seen in the cutscene walking about the campus, indicating it must be either school hours, or the very least not too long after the final bell. Despite this, the entire school seems to be miraculously empty, as it's blown up and crumbles.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins the Joker has rigged several buildings in Gotham to explode. He detonates the first one while Batman watches. After Batman tackles him and demands to know how many people he just killed, the Joker replies "None. I think." It was a construction site during a city-wide curfew (nearly midnight on Christmas Eve during a blizzard), so it being empty actually seems likely. The Joker assures Batman that the next building he'll blow will be full however.
  • The combat arenas of S.L.A.I.: Steel Lancer Arena International are clearly occupied in some form or fashion; many involve high rise buildings or places of commerce, perfectly usable shipping containers and vehicles are constantly wrecked, and yet somehow no one actually dies in these games outside of the ongoing murder mystery that drives the game's plot.
  • World of Tanks features a lot of maps with factories, houses, industrial areas, towns, villages, and so forth, but in spite of the tanks plowing through buildings and destroying each other, there are never any people shown to be at risk (one of the reasons the game is freely available in the usually quite restrictive German market). Given the way that the tanks are arbitrarily stuck onto teams regardless of nationality and that it's possible to find more examples of a particular model of tank in a single match than ever were built in real life, it's likely that in-universe it's some sort of wargame and therefore justified in there being no civilians around.

    Web Animation 
  • Toothy's alliance's clubhouse in Object Overload...At least, that's how Toothy found it anyway.

  • Averted in Moon Crest 24 as people can be seen inside the building the Ice Titan cut down. And in a later page, students are calling family to check on them and one is grieving over her sister.
  • Commander Kitty plays it for laughs after CK's Accidental Aiming Skills blow up a Triple-I space station by revealing that it had been evacuated for its quarter-centurial fire drill.
  • Z-City in One-Punch Man is practically made of empty buildings. Entire blocks being destroyed without civilian casualties. Justified in that few people live there because of how frequently monsters attack. With the section Saitama lives in, and where most of the fights take place, being completely deserted. It's also noted that the constant devastation suffered by Z-City has the side effect of making the rent there really cheap, which the ever-thrifty Saitama appreciates.

    Western Animation 
  • Constantly lampshaded in Megas XLR, with signs like "Conveniently Empty Building" and "Going to Be Demolished Anyways" on the buildings in question. Played with in some episodes, with signs indicating no people are in danger, but plenty of important stuff is being destroyed, such as the "Museum of Irreplaceable Art". Or the "Gunpowder, Ballbearing, and Shrapnel Factory", which was conveniently available while fighting Gorrath.
  • SWAT Kats has this in spades. Commander Feral constantly blasts the heroes for all the collateral damage they cause, although no mention is made of any casualties. Subverted in one episode where a stray missile supposedly injured innocent bystanders, although it was later revealed to be a setup.
  • In the first episode of Sym-Bionic Titan, the fight between the Titan and their foe creates a giant crater in the city, which is still visible and noted in subsequent episodes, with the implication that thousands were killed. The heroes try to limit their efforts to outside the city from then on.
  • In Men in Black: The Series, villains get ready to obliterate the Washington Monument. The President asks if the monument is still closed for renovations. A second after she gets a "yes," the monument is reduced to pebbles, as if even the bad guys were waiting for just that moment.
  • In Teen Titans (2003) the entire city will sometimes be conveniently empty when the Titans fight. This is a good thing, as anything is fair game for the Titans to use as a weapon in battle, from cars to street lamps. The most egregious example however is in Season 4 finale "The End (Part 1)" when Cyborg lifts an office building and uses it to smash Plasmus through two other buildings.
  • The DC Animated Universe exhibits this trope. The property damage in a typical episode of Superman: The Animated Series or Justice League can be massive, but almost no-one gets hurt. An extreme example was in the finale of JLU, in which Superman hits Darkseid with everything he's got, sending the big D flying through five or six skyscrapers, but the only people seen on screen are those on the ground watching in awe. Other buildings are seen being evacuated as they fight, but at the start of it, the entire Daily Planet staff was suspiciously hard at work during yet another alien invasion's start
    • STAS also played with subverting the trope in the episode in which Lobo is introduced: Superman hits him, sending him flying through the Lexcorp building, and there's a lovely shot where Luthor is working in his office and Lobo comes crashing through the floor and out through the ceiling, cursing the whole way. No-one gets hurt, but the building was definitely occupied.
    • This was a plot point in the second season finale of Justice League, where Cadmus' conveniently empty headquarters gets fired on by the League's downward-pointing, orbital Binary Fusion Generator. Amanda Waller, Cadmus director, is confronted by Batman for her and Lex Luthor's earlier actions against The Question and the League, and she suggests that their shot was a missed attempt at retaliation. When he points out the League's surveillance knew the building was empty, she suggests it was a "warning shot", so as not to show her hand that she was considering what he was suggesting, which was that Luthor hacked the League's system and fired the shot, not caring whether or not Cadmus was in the building, and benefiting either way.
      • And even though Cadmus' HQ was empty, the blast caused devastation for miles around. Even if "no one was hurt," the fact that people could have been is played as seriously as possible, factoring into the ongoing storyline that the League may be becoming a threat.
    • Justified in Clash when Superman and Captain Marvel battle, as the part of the city is newly built and people haven't moved in.
  • Subverted in an episode of Ben 10: when Vilgax seizes Ben as Heatblast and sends him flying through several buildings, people are actually seen at one point in the building, surprised to see Heatblast. Similarly to the Superman and Lobo case, nobody gets hurt (which is still surprising considering Heatblast is made of fire), but the building was occupied.
  • Biker Mice from Mars (the original series) has Limburger Tower, the headquarters of Lawrence Limburger, a Plutarkian in disguise, and his team. It gets destroyed once in every episode. Subverted when Team Limburger are inside, but nothing happens to them anyway.
    • Lampshaded in the second part of the two-part episode "The Reeking Reign of the Head Cheese", where buildings start to crumble because of Limburger having Monster of the Week Tunnel Rat burrowing through the city's ground. Charley informs the Biker Mice that they have to stop Limburger before any buildings that actually contain people get destroyed.
  • In an early episode of Godzilla: The Series, Godzilla's counterattack against a monster wrecks a bunch of warehouses. When one of the team cheers at Godzilla turning the tide, another teammate asks him if he'd be cheering if there had been people in those buildings, conveniently letting the audience know that no one was hurt.
  • Two episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender feature massively destructive bending duels: one between Aang and Zuko; and one between Aang, Zuko and Azula, which raze two abandoned villages to the ground. Justified since, with a hundred-year long war, some villages are bound to have been deserted.
  • Explicitly and elaborately invoked in the Grand Finale of The Legend of Korra, where Republic City is evacuated by presidential order before Kuvira's army arrives and the ensuing battle tears the city to pieces. There's quite a few parts that focus on the evacuees and their attempts to get out of dodge before the fight starts.
  • Played straight an astounding amount of times in Thomas & Friends: Locomotives will regularly go off the rails, smash into buildings, and absolutely demolish anything in their path, but no one ever seems to be seriously harmed. Sometimes they even crash into occupied buildings and everyone gets out without so much as a black eye.
  • In the episode "Chunnel Vision" of Street Fighter, a number of buildings in London are bombed by M. Bison's henchmen, but there are no casualties due to being very late at night. The MI5 director, however, fears how many people would have died if the blasts had occurred mid-day.
  • In the second episode of Wolverine and the X-Men (2009), Avalanche levels a number of buildings while the members of the Brotherhood are fleeing from the authorities. A news report later claims that the destroyed buildings were all empty warehouses, implying nobody got hurt.
  • For a show starring magical ponies who learn about friendship, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has blown up a lot of buildings. City Hall, Twilight's library, the Weather Factory, half of Canterlot. The buildings just happen to always be empty, such as Rainbow Dash pointing out she waited until lunch break to sabotage the factory (and apparently every single pony in the building leaves for lunch at that same time, and none of them eat inside the building, and none of them came back early or stayed behind to use the can).
  • Defied in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which has little compunction about showing how many people — good or bad — die as a result of whatever current crisis is going on. The Zillo Beast is shown destroying bridges that clearly have people on them, some Clone Troopers coldly execute an enemy soldier as he crawls out of his wrecked ship, two minor characters hate Jedi because their parents were killed in the crossfire of a fight from a previous episode, and much more. The sequel series doesn't reach quite the same levels of violence, but still does everything in its power to remind the audience that a lot of people are dying in the war; in the finale, for instance, Grand Admiral Thrawn orders a bombardment on a city and while the show doesn't out-and-out say there were any deaths, the lingering shots of destroyed buildings, injured people sobbing in the streets, and the protagonists staring on in abject horror make it pretty clear what the stakes are.

    Real Life 
  • This sort of thing happening is rare, but not unheard of - for instance plane crashes during the day in residential areas have a much higher probability of hitting an unoccupied house (most folks are out working, etc)- like this one in May 2014.
    • Skyscrapers, however, are very rarely completely empty - night staff usually cleans and keeps an eye on things during the night. Although you're still looking at a few dozen casualties instead of hundreds or thousands.
    • Surprisingly happened in a Virginia Beach apartment complex back in April, 2012. No casualties were reported.
  • Just prior to 9/11, the Pentagon was close to finishing a complete tear-down renovation the section that took the brunt of the hit in the attack. Of the 4,500 people expected to be working in that area on a typical day, only 800 had moved back into their offices. 125 Pentagon workers died on 9/11, with the recency of the renovation alongside upgrades to the building's structural integrity and fire-suppression systems being credited for preventing potentially hundreds of additional deaths.

Alternative Title(s): Abandoned Warehouse District, Conveniently Empty Buildings