The Loot Train Battle, Jon Snow’s adventures beyond the Wall, and Euron Greyjoy’s naval attack are just a few of the highlights of Game of Thrones season seven. Despite having just seven episodes, each installment has been bigger than ever before, and you have HBO’s deep pockets to thank for all of that cinematic eye candy. The premium channel ponies up an impressive amount of cash to make Daenerys’s dragons look so real. If you’ve ever wondered how much it costs to make Game of Thrones, then wonder no more. It costs a lot. I’m talking $10-million-an-episode levels of a lot.
Early on, the show had to make do with a comparatively paltry $6 million per episode. According to The New York Post, that was the typical amount spent throughout season two. The show’s first big blockbuster episode was the second season’s penultimate hour, “Blackwater.” The wildfire-infused battle sequences led to showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asking HBO for an extra $2 million to fully bring the battle to life. While it may seem strange now given the show’s staggering success, HBO was skeptical about pouring $8 million into a single installment at the time. Benioff explained to The New York Post, “We went down on bended knee. ‘Just this once. Please.’ We were genuinely nervous about it for the whole time until we finally wrapped it.”
Benioff and Weiss got their budget increase, and the money paid off. “Blackwater” remains a fan-favorite episode, even now that your average episode costs $10 million a pop. Entertainment Weekly reported that by season five, the cost per episode had ballooned to at least $8 million, and for seasons six and seven, the budget hit $10 million per outing. While HBO doesn’t officially comment on the amount spent on the episodes, it is widely acknowledged that “Battle of the Bastards” is the show’s most expensive hour — at least it was prior to season seven.
When it comes to “Battle of the Bastards,” you can see every penny on the screen. EW reported that the episode called for 600 crew members, 500 extras, and four camera crews. Fans had been waiting for Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton to come face to face for a long time, so the moment it finally happened, it needed to be impressive. The show more than delivered, offering up an intense outing that could rival any of the recent action movies Hollywood has churned out.
Now that Game of Thrones is officially entering its endgame, every installment has to be a spectacle. That’s why despite the episode count going down, the budget and shooting time have stayed the same (and perhaps even increased at times). Each and every week, you are seeing what a $10 million episode of television looks like. And I think everyone can agree, they look spectacular. From the graceful yet massive dragons to the army of shambling White Walkers, the series is always a technical triumph.
While the amount of money that goes into making each episode a reality is impressive, Game of Thrones would be nothing without its complex cast of characters. Sure, the fire-breathing dragons leave you slack-jawed, but so does seeing Jon and Sansa reunite. HBO is wise to give Benioff and Weiss however much money they ask for, but even without millions being poured into each hour, I suspect Game of Thrones would still be one of TV’s most addictive dramas.
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