How Much Does an Episode of "Game of Thrones" Actually Cost to Make?
Excited for the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones? You’re in good company. Viewership for HBO’s hit show is expected to top over 8 million for its extra-long premiere episode.
The #WinterIsHere trailer promises bigger battles, more fire, and larger dragons than ever before.
As anticipation continues to grow, we did a deep dive into the costs and figures and found some pretty shocking numbers! We all know that good TV costs a lot of money to make, but these production costs take it to a whole new level.
For one, each episode of Game of Thrones now costs $10 million to produce.
$10 million for per episode. Can you imagine? That’s an insane amount of money.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves though, let’s step back to when the budget wasn’t quite as big as it is today.
Then and Now: Game of Thrones Budget
GOT has always had a lavish budget.
For seasons 1-5, each episode cost $6 million, and had a budget of over $60 million for each season.
Despite such an impressive budget, directors still begged for more money to increase the levels of awesomeness of the show, and I guess it paid off. Now with the raging success of the show, the exception is the rule.
So how much does it cost to make Game of Thrones now? A whopping $10 million to produce each episode, and a budget of over $100 million for each season.
However, with shooting locations such as Ireland, Iceland, Morocco and Croatia, epic battle sequences, and period costumes, we feel that the costs are well justified. After all, a Lannister always pays his debts:
As we head into the final two seasons, there’s good news and bad news.
Bad news: co-creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have confirmed that there are only 13-15 hours left of content to split over two seasons.
That means two uncharacteristically short seasons.
Good news: Because the seasons are shorter, it’s likely each episode will have more time and even more money spent on its production. Translation: all of the episodes are going to be totally epic.
Specifics for how the money is spent is kept under wraps, but here's what we do know (spoiler: Daenerys’ hair is not insignificant).
Follow the Money
Where does it all go?
The Most Epic Battle Scenes Ever
Those incredible battle scenes cost a pretty penny to produce, with cash going to a wide variety of professionals, from those training the actors to complete the fight routine, to special effects artists and engineers, to set and costume designers.
Not to mention post-production processing to make sure it all looks fantastic!
Season 2 actually exceeded the original budget of $60 Million by about 15% with the important battles in “Blackwater,” the second to last episode.
The battle that left us all floored though, was hands down “The Battle of Bastards” in Season 6. It’s the most expensive episode to date.
To pull it off, they had 600 crew members, 500 extras, 70 horses, 25 stuntman, and 4 camera crews.
Also – it took an entire month to film.
Executing a scene that intense, gruesome, and utterly captivating, took as much money as it did talent to come together.
Perfectly Customized Clothing & Accessories
Clothing for the Kingdoms does not come cheap.
Did you know each GOT characters wigs costs up to $7,000? That's because they're made of real human hair, which is pricey. And, with 20-30 wigs in rotation on any given day, that’s a boatload of money spent on hair.
All of these characters wear wigs to ensure their signature do’s stay done for the entire day of shooting:
Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke:
Cersei, played by Lena Headley :
Malisandre, played by Carice van Houten:
Margeary, played by Natalie Dormer:
Hair aside, each costume is also custom-made for each character (even extras on the set) and is hand-aged.
There's a professional crew in charge of sanding, beating, soaking and generally mussing up each item of clothing you see on the show to make sure it looks lived in and used.
Salaries That Will Make You Blush
It comes as no surprise that the stars of Games of Thrones get paid handsomely for their gallant efforts, but these record breaking numbers are high enough to make anyone blush.
Five of the biggest stars have reportedly signed a new, record-breaking contract that earns them $2.6 million per episode for Seasons 7 and 8 – which would be the biggest pay-per-episode deal in TV history!
Let’s take a look at that in numbers for season 7, which has 7 episodes on deck:
- Peter Dinklage: $2.6 million x 7 episodes = $18.2 million
- Kit Harington: $2.6 million x 7 episodes = $18.2 million
- Lena Headey: $2.6 million x 7 episodes = $18.2 million
- Emilia Clarke: $2.6 million x 7 episodes = $18.2 million
- Nicolaj Coster-Waldau: $2.6 million x 7 episodes = $18.2 million
Total = $91 million
With each actor making $18.2 million per season, that’s a whopping total of $91 million on salaries for 5 actors – for just one season!
Let that sink in.
On top of the star cast, there are also over 275 actors per season, each of which are paid and most of whom are fed for the day.
Sidenote: Let’s Talk About Net Worth
The reported net worth for Game of Thrones actors in 2017 is as follows:
Nicolaj Coster-Waldau net worth: $15 million
GOT character: Jaime Lannister
Peter Dinklage net worth: $15 million
GOT character: Tyrion Lannister
Emilia Clarke net worth: $13 million
GOT character: Daenerys Targaryen
Kit Harington net worth: $12 million
GOT character: Jon Snow
Lena Headey net worth: $9 million
GOT character: Cersei Lannister
Carice van Houten net worth: $5 million
GOT character: Red Priestess Melisandre, aka the Red Woman on Game of Thrones
Aidan Gillen net worth: $4 million
GOT character: Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish
Sophie Turner net worth: $3 million
GOT character: Sansa Stark
Maisie Williams net worth: $3 million
GOT character: Arya Stark
Jacob Anderson net worth: $3 million
GOT character: Grey Worm, head of Daenerys Targaryen’s Unsullied army
Iain Glen net worth: $3 million
GOT character: Jorah Mormont
Alfie Allen net worth: $2 million
GOT character: Theon Greyjoy, aka Reek
Isaac Hempstead-Wright net worth: $2 million
GOT character: Brandon ‘Bran’ Stark
John Bradley net worth: $1 million
GOT character: Samwell Tarly
Nathalie Emmanuel net worth: $1 million
GOT character: Missandei
Gwendoline Christie net worth: $500,000
GOT character: Brienne of Tarth
Location, Location, Location
Filming on location costs big bucks.
A bill many don't think of is the cost of transporting the actors to each set location. Because a single season can include shots from several countries, simply moving the crew, housing and feeding them all can really add up.
However, this part of the cost is subsidized - namely by Northern Ireland, as the show's production headquarters are in Belfast.
Northern Ireland Screen, an agency financed by Northern Ireland's economic development agency (Invest NI) and the European Regional Development Fund, throws a hefty $15.3 million at the show for each season.
Why do they do it? The show has boosted the country's economy over $108 million. Keeping Game of Thrones in the country has massively benefited locals, bringing in money not only from the services needed by the show, but tourism.
Mind Blowing CGI Effects
You mean the dragons aren't real?
Unfortunately, no, but that doesn’t make them any less cool to see on TV! In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts of the show.
Turns out, they are also quite expensive to make.
Rumor has it the dragons cost anywhere from $1 to $2 million per episode, but that could be highly inflated.
Regardless, what we do know if that computer generated imaging, or CGI, is expensive and used more than we may think nowadays.
This newly released clip shows exactly how the team creates the special effects we see on Game of Thrones:
Just take a look at the difference:
King's Castle before and after:
Braavos before and after:
King's Landing before and after:
So how much are these special effects worth?
Money Inc estimates 10 minutes of CGI in Game of Thrones costs $800,000. That isn't including data storage which can run them $7,000 per second.
As expensive as it is, you have to agree, CGI is the easiest way to get an army of frozen zombies.
Each episode of GOT is expensive but we think they're well worth it.
From the feature-film quality production to the incredible actors, Game of Thrones is certainly a good example of a case in which you get what you pay for!
How Other Fan Favorite TV Shows Compare
Digging through the numbers for Game of Thrones got us thinking about other shows and movies GOT fans may enjoy.
Netflix’s Marco Polo is remarkably high at $9 million per episode while only in their second season.
HBO’s Deadwood comes in at $4.5 million per episode and Westworld at $9 million per episode.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End blew GOT out of the water, as far as budgets go – $300 million is equal to the budget of the first 5 GOT seasons combined.
Time will tell if their budgets will rise to what we’ve seen for GOT, but I have a feeling this show will go down in history as one of the best of all time.