For three seasons now, Yellowstone has been one of TV's most gripping and most popular dramas, with a hyper-talented ensemble cast and some of the most gorgeous cinematography on the small screen. But some of those picturesque locales will look a bit different when Season 4 hits Paramount Network in 2021, as co-creator Taylor Sheridan & Co. made the decision to switch up filming locations for the next set of episodes. As it sometimes goes with those kinds of choices, it all comes down to finances, since Yellowstone certainly isn't the cheapest TV show to put together. Let's break down those two topics below.
How Much Does Yellowstone Cost To Film?
The first three seasons of Yellowstone, while set in Montana, were actually filmed largely in and around Park City, Utah, with somewhere around 75% of the production taking place in the Beehive State. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, the slow-burning neo-western spent around $80 million while filming in Utah, which averages out to slightly less than $27 million for each season.
So if that only covers around 3/4 of the entire production, that would imply that Yellowstone probably cost more around $35 million for each of its first three seasons, on average. (Season 1 would presumably be slightly cheaper, since it featured nine episodes rather than the ten-ep funs of Seasons 2 and 3.) Breaking that down even more, it would appear each episode of Yellowstone costs somewhere around $3.5 million to film.
That total very likely doesn't include the cast members' salaries, either, meaning Yellowstone's overall budget is even higher. To portray patriarch John Dutton, the always dependable Kevin Costner is making $500,000 an episode, while the younger generation of actors reportedly earn less than half of that. Co-stars Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, and Luke Grimes all reportedly make around $200,000 an episode or less.
While the above totals were all through Season 3, the recently completed Season 4 doesn't quite fit into the same equation as above. For one, the new season had to adhere to strict COVID-19 safety precautions, with much of the cast and crew living in the ranch area where the new season was filmed. No specific financial details have been revealed, but across the industry, the costs of COVID testing and protocols tend to amount to around 20% of a series' total budget. As well, though, the new Season 4 location also factored into the cost.
Why Did Yellowstone Change Filming Locations For Season 4?
Despite filming its first three seasons in Utah and developing a good relationship with the Park City community, Yellowstone's producers chose to shift things higher north to film Season 4 in and around Missoula, Montana. Not only does this give Yellowstone the ability to boast that it films in the same state where the story is set – though with Bozeman as the central burgh – but the switch was also a cost-effective move for the powers that be.
For the most part, Paramount chose Montana due to the $10 million tax credit law that was only relatively recently passed, which was a more financially viable option than Utah's $8.5 million tax credit. Not to mention many more film and TV projects are fighting for the incentives in Utah as opposed to Montana. That may change in the future, but for now, Yellowstone is taking advantage, and businesses in that area are quite appreciative, since the show does a fine job of employing local workers as extras, security detail, and more.
Interestingly enough, Yellowstone also traveled down to film scenes in Ft. Worth, Texas, though it's not clear what those scenes will include. As well, it hasn't been revealed which, if any, of the show's stars made the trek to film there. It's possible, of course, that those moments could introduce a character that audiences aren't familiar with yet. The sky is the limit with this show, especially in big sky country.
Fans have been cooking up Season 4 theories left and right during the post-Season 3 hiatus, as everyone wants to know how John, Beth and Kayce are doing after that tumultuous cliffhanger-filled finale. While waiting for it to return to Paramount Network in 2021, head to our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring 2021 TV rundown.