Summer is blockbuster season at the movie theater, but this year, things may be a little different. Game of Thrones, the "last appointment-viewing show on television" according to Time, will debut mid-Summer for the first time in its seven-year history on July 16. So you'd better get your friends and head to the movies now because everyone will be watching Thrones this Summer.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones averaged 23 million viewers per episode last season. That number includes appointment-watchers, DVR watchers, HBO subscribers and repeat viewers. That's a lot of hours. For film producers who count on their audiences devoting around three hours of their weekends to going to the theater, those hours are crucial. You can also take into account the show grows in viewership every year and more people will be watching in 2017.
Thrones is on Sunday nights at 10:00 PM, not exactly prime theater hours. But, considering more than half the show's fans are not watching it at that time and, instead, streaming it, or watching a recording later, it doesn't really matter when it airs. The bottom line is people will be watching Thrones and, more, many fans will be watching two, three times during their weeks. Would they spend that time going to the theater otherwise? Maybe, maybe not, but before, they didn't even have the choice during the Summer.
Nearly every season of Game of Thrones thus far has debuted in April (season three debuted March 31), and, usually, it's wrapped up by July. The film industry hasn't had to compete with a TV show this popular in the Summer months for a long time. There are so many shows now and so many popular ones, rating shares are fractions of what they were 20-30 years ago when there weren't a quarter as many channels or other options like Netflix.
The biggest danger for Hollywood in the coming months may be losing out on the coveted 18 to 24 age group demographic. This is the dating demo. It's also people on break from college with nothing to do all Summer and the real bread and butter for Summer blockbusters. The MPAA reported people in this age group attended an average of 6.5 movies a year in 2016, more than in any other. What happens if the movies lose these people to Thrones all Summer?
The short of it is Game of Thrones is a monster of a TV show and people love it. Given the choice between seeing Daenerys Stormborn burn the Lannister army to ashes or a movie they don't feel half as strongly about, guess which choice the viewer will make? Thrones isn't just another TV show, it's a way of life. People are enraptured by this bloody, medieval-style soap opera in ways that only certain TV shows can enrapture. I should know, I'm one of them, and there isn't a movie coming out this Summer I'm looking forward to more than the first episode of the newest season of Game of Thrones.