Game of Thrones season 7 will run for 7 episodes and debut later than usual

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Game of Thrones season seven will air in the summer of 2017 and run for seven episodes, according to an HBO press release issued Monday — officially confirming what many have been saying for months: that at least one of the show’s probable two final seasons will be shortened as the series closes in on its endgame. All six previous seasons of Game of Thrones have run for 10 episodes each.

The show, which nabbed an impressive 23 Emmy nominations on July 14, will begin production this summer and continue filming into the fall, a schedule that will push backGame of Thrones’ season seven premiere date from spring (when it usually returns) until mid-summer.

According to Casey Bloys, president of HBO programming, the reason for the scheduling shift is primarily due to weather. “Now that winter has arrived on Game of Thrones, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss felt that the storylines of the next season would be better served by starting production a little later than usual, when the weather is changing,” he said in a statement released by the network.

Plans are to film the season’s seven episodes primarily in Northern Ireland, Spain, and Iceland.

Game of Thrones’ main directors for season seven will mostly be returning veterans, including Mark Mylod, Alan Taylor, and the Emmy-nominated Jeremy Podeswa. They’ll be joined by director Matt Shakman, who’s new to the show.

Season seven is expected to be Game of Thrones‘ penultimate season, and may well be a complete surprise to longtime fans of the incomplete fantasy novel series upon which the show is based, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Fans have been waiting on the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter, for so long that the HBO adaptation has not only passed by what has been published in previous novels, but revealed some story elements that are yet to come.

Writing about the delay on his blog earlier this year, Martin said that he “never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has. The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly.”

However, he also urged fans to “enjoy the show” and “enjoy the books,” while noting, “Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter [on the show] may not be spoilers at all … because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.”

If Martin manages to put out the sixth book next year, fans of both series may wind up with multiple surprises on their hands in 2017.

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