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A Game of Screens

Alongside 17.4 million or so of you, last night, I watched the season premiere of Game of Thrones. Th
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A Game of Screens
By M.G. Siegler • Issue #163 • View online
Alongside 17.4 million or so of you, last night, I watched the season premiere of Game of Thrones. The eighth season. The final season. Unsurprisingly, it’s crushing records. Which got me thinking…
In the lead up to the season, there was a report that the producers had originally conceived of this last hurrah as three movies. Granted, they were thinking about this years ago, trying to extrapolate out how they could possibly end a show of such scope – and such cost. Given the building popularity in the intervening years, HBO didn’t hesitate to step up to the plate to give them what they needed in order to keep it on television.
Still, one wonders what might have been…
Reports suggest the budget for each episode this year is roughly $15M. This is obviously unprecedented for television. But for film – again, certainly a production with the scope of Thrones, this is rather modest. 6 episodes at $15M per is $90M. Let’s round up to $100M. And it’s still modest. That’s for somewhere between 6-9 hours of content. For comparison, the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame movie is said to have a budget approaching $500M. Yes, that includes marketing, so let’s say it’s $300 - $400M. That movie is around 3 hours long.
In other words, a movie with 1/3rd of the footage has 3x-4x the budget of our television show in question. Yes, they’re two different beasts. But imagine if they had made the Game of Thrones movies. Is there any question that someone – even if only HBO in part – gives them a $500M-$1B budget to shoot all three, Lord of the Rings-style? No, there is no question. That’s 5x-10x the resources.
Anyway, the first episode was great. I’m sure the other five will be as well. So it’s just a “what if”… But there’s an even more obvious, if tangential thought experiment here, one that has been percolating for months: what if HBO had just opted to open this latest season of Game of Thrones – the TV show, as is – in movie theaters?
Imagine if they ran the first episode in theaters only for the first week. Or even just opened it on a Thursday before the Sunday premiere on HBO itself. I know I would absolutely go to see it on the big screen. As would undoubtedly millions of others. Given the near feature-length of the episodes, I would even pay full price for a “regular” movie ticket. But even if HBO “only” charged $5-$10/ticket, how much money would they make? Tens of millions for sure. Hundreds of millions? Perhaps!
Just imagine if HBO had opted to open each of the six episodes of seasons 8 in this regard. Perhaps even promoted viewing parties for such events? We’re definitely talking hundreds of millions of dollars at that point. Then the question becomes: are we talking billions? Maybe not. Still, that is a lot of money for HBO to leave on the table, all for not doing much beyond some additional marketing.
The hype around Game of Thrones each week is crazy. I believe it could have crossed the chasm into theaters – again, paying theaters – with ease. Maybe HBO subscribers get a discount. Maybe those that sign up for the service at such an event get in free. There are all sorts of things HBO could have played with here. But it would have involved thinking outside of the television box. Taking a wider view.
Drinking: a Woods Beer Coconut Caramel Dubbel 🍻

A Game of Links
"They put their money where their mouths are — literally stuffed their mouth full of million-dollar bills, which don’t exist anymore."
I Rewatched "Game Of Thrones" Season 1 And Noticed Some Interesting Details
What Might George R.R. Martin’s Original Story Pitch Tell Us About the End of ‘Game of Thrones’?
'Game of Thrones' Legacy in Epic Fantasy?
What is the Moral Compass of “Game of Thrones”?
Why the Next 'Game of Thrones' Book Isn't Coming Soon, Even If It's Finished
A Giphy To Go
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M.G. Siegler

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