Over the weekend, “Game of Thrones” became the first television show ever to take on IMAX -- and now it's game on for the rest of the TV industry. The last two episodes of the HBO megahit's fourth season premiered on a Times Square big screen Thursday and spread to other IMAX screens Friday, to pull in weekend box-office numbers rivaling some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Perhaps it's not surprising given the epic fantasy series' rabid fan base, cinematic ambitions and investments of money and resources comparable to those of major studio movies, as it continues to be an unprecedented production in the television world.
“Game of Thrones” raked in $1.5 million in the opening weekend of its weeklong, IMAX-only run, despite debuting in only 205 theaters. That’s just under $7,323 per theater – not far off the pace of the weekend’s traditional film box office winner, “American Sniper,” which netted $31,505,000 in 3,885 theaters for $8,109 per theater. The success of the theatrical release could make “Game of Thrones” a game changer yet again as it proves the marketability of popular television shows on the big screen.
“This is the first time HBO has taken one of their series episodes and released it in IMAX,” Jeff Goldstein, executive vp of distribution for Warner Bros. – which handled the release – told Deadline Hollywood. “We see this as a future, and not just with HBO.”
The future will require major spending, with the money going into the show just as notable as the money it makes. The show costs, on average, $6 million per episode to produce and over $60 million for an entire season. And as the cast gets more and more famous and contracts get renegotiated for subsequent seasons, the costs will only rise.
That puts the show's season budgets on par with blockbuster studio films -- $60 million was the budget of the recently released "Mortdecai" -- and a per-episode budget that dwarfs other shows and rivals another big-budget event from over the weekend – the Super Bowl halftime show – whose production costs exceeded $10 million.
With “Game of Thrones” continuing to rank as one of the best-rated shows on television, in addition to being the most pirated show on television and now even a box-office success, HBO should have no reservations about shelling out the money for production. In fact, the show is so profitable that HBO even invested money into already released episodes to remaster them in IMAX format for the theatrical release. HBO and IMAX would not release the exact figure.
The show’s influence can be felt across the entire television landscape as new shows, like Netflix’s “Marco Polo,” try to capitalize on turning big budgets into big profits. Heading into its fifth season in April, “Thrones” is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, if the IMAX release is any indication, it will only get bigger.
“Game of Thrones” Season 5 premieres on HBO on April 12. Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.