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Game of Thrones: HBO announces summer return, 7 episodes

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Helen Sloan/HBO

Summer is coming.

HBO is officially confirming some major changes for Game of Thrones

Season 7 of the fantasy sensation will not return until summer 2017 — pushing back from the show’s usual strategy of premiering each edition of the series in the spring (typically April).

Also, the network is confirming for the first time that next edition will consist of seven episodes (a pull back from the show’s usual 10 hours).

Plus, HBO added that the next season will be shot in Northern Ireland, Spain, and Iceland. It’s been a couple years since the Thrones team used Iceland for significant shooting, having primarily used the location for North of the Wall scenes when Jon Snow was embedded with the Wildlings camp.

“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,” said Casey Bloys, president, HBO programming. “Instead of the show’s traditional spring debut, we’re moving the debut to summer to accommodate the shooting schedule.”

Benioff and Weiss also recently told the UFC Unfiltered podcast that production was getting a later start this year to film in wintery locations, which prompted speculation that the show’s return date might also be pushed. “We’re starting a bit later because at the end of this season, ‘Winter is here’ — and that means that sunny weather doesn’t really serve our purposes any more. So we kind of pushed everything down the line, so we could get some grim grey weather even in the sunnier places that we shoot.” (Usually the show begins production in July).

The producers have previously told EW they wanted to cap the hit series at 73 hours, with seven episodes next year, and six in an eighth-and-final season. (“We’ve known for several years now how many hours, roughly, we want it to go, it hasn’t changed,” Benioff said.) HBO has not yet confirmed anything about season 8, however, so that part of their plan is not yet official.

Thrones has managed to ratchet up its production values with each season, and having fewer episodes will likely allow more time for the team to polish every hour of the show. The producers have tapped directors Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa, Mark Mylod, and Matt Shakman for next season.

Thrones season 6 broke HBO ratings records once again with episodes averaging more than 23 million viewers, including streaming, repeats and DVR playback  The drama was also nominated for 23 primetime Emmys last week, more than any of other series for the third year running.

READ MORE: 10 Predictions About Game of Thrones Season 7

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