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Even though there are 4.85 other boroughs in New York (if you count Staten Island), Lower Manhattan is used disproportionately often in many films and shows because it's easier to film in; the Financial District empties out like a Ghost City on the weekends. Many of the streets are already blocked off, and there are few residents to complain if an entire neighborhood is overrun by camera crews and catering trucks.
As a result, anything which is nominally set (or could be set) in other parts of the city will still have scenes filmed downtown even if there's no compelling reason for the characters or action to be there. A story about stock brokers makes sense, but for everything else, it's because it's an easy shooting location.
The corner of Wall and Broad Streets is a popular spot because it's been closed to traffic for years. It's also the location of Federal Hall, which easily doubles for any other columned government building. Hardly a weekend goes by without something being filmed there.
The trope name comes from Robert Fulton, whose 1807 steamboat the Clermont was contemporaneously ridiculed as "Fulton's folly", and who has a prominent local street named for him and is buried at nearby Trinity Church.
A subtrope of Big Applesauce, where things happen in New York even though they could be reasonably set in any other city, state or country.
Not to be confused with Fulton Street Foley, the sound of urban combat and mobilized emergency vehicles as Lower Manhattan falls under lockdown.
- Sonny in Big Daddy lives near the South Street Seaport for no apparent reason yet spends a considerable amount of time hanging out in Central Park.
- Much of the first act of Cloverfield takes place near City Hall.
- Justified in Deep Impact when the tidal wave visibly destroys Lower Manhattan, as that's the portion of the island facing the bay.
- Die Hard With a Vengeance features a Wall Street subway bombing. (And subverts it by using the explosion to break into the Federal Reserve.)
- Godzilla in the 1998 movie makes its first appearance stomping up Broad Street and stepping over Federal Hall.
- I Am Legend (2007) is set mostly downtown and uses South Street Seaport as the broadcast rendezvous spot.
- In & Out includes a Federal Hall scene in the award-winning movie-within-a-movie.
- The headquarters of Men in Black are located under Battery Park.
- National Treasure features scenes at Trinity Church. Justified in that the treasure was hidden there around the time of the Revolutionary War, when a majority of Manhattan Island was undeveloped.
- Lower Manhattan doubles for Metropolis in many of the street scenes in Superman.
- The Bone Collector is largely set downtown. The manhole-cover bomb scene takes place at Wall and Broad Streets, between Federal Hall and the New York Stock Exchange.
- The filming of the Fringe episode where skin grows over every orifice of the victim's bodies had this: the first guy getting attacked at the magazine stand was filmed on Fulton Street.
- Averted in the Law and Order franchise, which roams up and down Manhattan. Although the Federal building does feature in most episodes, that's because it's the courthouse.
- Ironically, the "courthouse" used on Law & Order is the civil courthouse. The criminal courthouse is a block away, but dosen't look as cool.
- Rage Against the Machine played "Sleep Now in the Fire" on the steps of Federal Hall (across from the NYSE) on a weekday, without a permit, for their video.
- At the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, Big Shell and Arsenal Gear crash into Lower Manhattan, resulting in Raiden and Solidus dueling at the top of Federal Hall. Maybe.
- The very first mission of Modern Warfare 3, "Black Tuesday", revolves around a Russian jamming array atop the New York Stock Exchange. Broad Street and Federal Hall can be prominently seen along the way.
- High level politicians and candidates often deliver speeches at Federal Hall because the side streets are already sealed off and it's easier to shut down a museum rather than film at a working government building.
- Interestingly, since 2001, the Financial District has begun developing into a residential area. The 9/11 attack scared off a number of banks and financial institutions, and the credit crunch of 2008 didn't help either, all leading to a number of buildings standing empty. Residential developers bought and renovated them into luxury apartments, and "FiDi" (following the naming traditions of New York neighborhoods that coined TriBeCa and SoHo) is now considered an up-and-coming neighborhood, especially for the new generation of yuppies (young lawyers, investment bankers, and the like).
- The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that spread to the general "Occupy" phenomenon in late 2011 started, obviously, in the Financial District. However, Occupy Wall Street soon took root not on Wall Street proper (which was quickly barricaded by the NYPD, causing no end of havoc to local residents), but the nearby Zuccotti Park.
- Previous steamboats had been woefully underpowered, leading the Unwashed Masses™ to believe the technology was completely infeasible