The budget: Pay 3 get 4

We touched upon budgeting issues in an earlier post when the first concrete figures were made public (£30 million, or 45 million in U.S. dollars, for the first season). Now Elio wrote an article at Westeros discussing the budget of Game of Thrones in depth, with the aim of establishing what this amount means in terms of comparison to budgets of other shows. They came across a U.K. Film Council economic report which was helpful in their calculations. After we weigh in all the factors – lower costs in Northern Ireland, tax reliefs, cash incentives, and the heavy subsidies on the rent of studio space in Belfast – the reported budget translates to an estimated equivalent of about $55 million. The conclusion?

So if you’re worried about the budget? Don’t be. HBO’s investing major funds into this, making the show its second-most expensive regular hour-long series on the air [after Boardwalk Empire], and its third-most richly budgeted regular hour-long [after BE and Rome].

Hear Me Roar: We had a good feeling about this, and now the research into the local economic conditions makes the maths more specific. While spending less, which works in favour of HBO ordering further seasons, the show runners will not have to make sacrifices in the quality department. No doubt encouraging!


  • For the first season I have absolutely no worries for the budget. I’m wondering if they will do the big battle-scenes in the book to follow (spoilers): Dany’s path of war and the shitload of greenfire that’s being thrown at an eintire fleet.

    btw, where did intensedebate go?

  • The budget seems big enough for the story, while small enough for the risk. Now it does not have to be the next True blood to stay on air for å while, i guess/hope.

  • I wish people would understand that a reasonably tight budget is a *good* thing. Besides the fact that it means the show is less likely to have the plug pulled, there's no reason in this day and age you can't have excellent production values special effects on a modest budget. Look at the work of Guillermo Del Toro–I don't think he's ever made a movie with a budget higher than $50 million, and his effects regularly look as good as or better than movies that cost twice or three times as much. Likewise, the Lord of the Rings movies were, when you break the budget down three ways, not that expensive by the mega-blockbuster standards. And then there's District 9, which put Avatar to shame at a fraction of the cost.

    Good special effects aren't achieved simply by throwing piles of cash at them, they're about care and craftsmanship. People like James Cameron are trying to push the limits of technology, which costs a lot; people like Michael Bay approach filmmaking with a flaky, improv approach that gives them freedom on set but means a lot of stress and money for the CG animators. But the weird fact, as we've seen, is that these respective approaches don't necessarily result in better movies. A filmmaker who knows what they're doing, who is passionate about effects and craftsmanship, and who is willing to use cheaper in-camera techniques like models, puppets, forced perspective, can get great results–in fact, I happen to feel this mode of filmmaking often produces better-looking effects than the massive blockbusters. I mean, I prefer the effects of "The Empire Strikes Back" to "Transformers", and nowadays you could probably make the former film for about the same price tag as GoT's first season, maybe even less.

    So I view a relatively restrained budget as a sign that this production is going to be responsible and innovative. We've already seen plenty of indication that this is true, what with the money the production is saving in Northern Ireland–it really sounds like the show's producers know what they're doing from a practical perspective.

  • People can do wonders with 20% of this budget, so I expect LOTR level SFX from this $50 million. I want a grand Kingslanding and a spectacular Red Keep, the Eyrie should make me gasp by its beauty and the amazing mountain scenery, and the battles have to big and the wall have to be wondrous. I want this show to look like it's a budget of $200 million.

  • This is a pretty worthless comment, but i have a feeling the effects will be rather so-so. And i mean so-so compared to the grandour of the battles and places (kings landing, red keep, eyrie, the wall, winterfell…) whitch seem amazing when described in the book. I don't expect to be gaping in front of the small screen. Whitch i'm perfectly fine with. As long as it does not look downright silly, i won't be much dissapointed – i will come here and complain a little, though… ;)

  • Just wondering: these budget estimations include the pilot or only the nine remaining episodes?

    • estimations include the pilot episode–which will have been the most expensive episode to film as they needed initial start up costs invested in it.

  • maths.

    sounds great to me. even better than i had originally thought when the budget numbers first came out.

  • Huh? I want don't care how much money they have for the show. BUT the show better look like they spent …. hmmmm ONE MILLION DOLLARS on it. I mean… ONE HUNDRED TRILLION DOLLARS.

  • "The Tudors" has a budget of about $40 million pe season, which makes it the most expensive show for Showtime (although they are sharing the costs with the CBC, Peacearch and other companies). I have never been dissapointed by how that show looks. In fact I found the texture of the show, the richness of the costumes, the locations, the visual effects and all the rest to be of the highest quality. Sure, perhaps it is not as grand as "ROME", or "John Adams", but still they do more than a good job on that show, which by the way also has only ten episodes per season.

  • If "Game Of Thrones" looks like "The Tudors", then I know I won't be dissapointed, anything extra is pure gravy. As another poster put it, it's better if they keep costs from running amock, then that will give the series a better chance at long and complete run. That doesn't mean that HBO wont increase the budget when needed to accommodate for certain points in the story that will call for that. If Sci-Fi did it with "Battlestar Galactica" and Showtime is doing it with "The Tudors", I am pretty sure HBO will succeed with "Game Of Thrones". Besides, as other have pointed out, this more than just about the money.

    • It is notable that BSG had a really tight budget of only about $2 million per episode. Even just filming out in the car park for the New Caprica story arc really stretched their budget quite badly.

  • I am a bit worried since both big-budget HBO shows, Rome & Deadwood, got cancelled after 3 seasons. I think a more frugal approach would allow for a longer life