When originally announced in early 1977, what became ABBA - THE MOVIE was to be a simple ‘home movie’ of the tour for the group to enjoy later. As the tour approached the idea was expanded to be a television special, then a big screen movie documentary. By the time that the ABBA arrived in Australia the simple tour documentary idea had been expanded to incorporate a story about a disc jockey following the tour trying to secure an interview with ABBA. THE MOVIE was to be a co-production between Polar Music International AB and Reg Grundy Productions Pty. Ltd., who also held the ABBA merchandising licence in Australia.

Filming began immediately that ABBA arrived in Australia, with their arrival at Sydney Airport on February 27. As scenes of ABBA attending press conferences, civic receptions, travelling to venues, meetings with fans, et cetera were filmed, simultaneously other scenes featuring Robert Hughes as Ashley the disc jockey were filmed on various locations around Australia. In the early days of the tour ABBA had not been informed of the identity of the actor, and presumed that this extra-pushy journalist appearing everywhere asking them for a quiet drink was some sort of nutty local journalist.

Filming was also done at every ABBA concert, and all were also recorded for the film soundtrack and a proposed live album. The five concerts held in Perth were best used for filming and recording, as the Perth Entertainment Centre was the only indoor venue of the tour, and other factors (such as rain) would have no effect on the filming and recording.

After ABBA left Australia from Perth on March 13, some additional filming was done with the Australian actors, as well as location footage such as the Moomba parade in Melbourne. Then at the end of May ABBA commenced recording of their next album in Sweden, with the intention of using some new songs in THE MOVIE.

During the Northern Summer of 1977 Robert Hughes and Tom Oliver (who played the bodyguard) travelled to Sweden for additional filming with ABBA, primarily ‘The Name Of The Game’ dream sequence. Other filming of Robert and Tom on the streets of Stockholm, substituting for Sydney and Melbourne, was done.

During September 1977 extensive re-recording of the live tracks was done to enhance the sound of the recordings for the film soundtrack. Some vocals and backing instrumentation were recorded, including the string arrangement for ‘Dancing Queen’ and the piano solo on ‘I Wonder (Departure)’, which was not used for THE MOVIE, but rather issued as the b-side of the next single, ‘The Name Of The Game’. At one stage during 1977 it was announced that the new album would be a double, one LP of new songs and one LP of live recordings, but this idea was soon shelved in favour of a single studio album, though five songs (including 4 studio versions) from The Album were used in THE MOVIE.

The later months of 1977 were used by director Lasse Hallström for final editing and post-production. Though it had been originally announced that THE MOVIE would be released in August, it was now scheduled for a pre-Christmas opening. Meanwhile ABBA continued work on completing ABBA - THE ALBUM for a simultaneous release with THE MOVIE.

ABBA - THE MOVIE newspaper advertisement opening day

After several preview screenings in Sweden in early December, the Australian premiere of ABBA - THE MOVIE was held on 14 December 1977 at Hoyts Regent Theatre in George Street, Sydney. Several of the film’s Australian stars were in attendance, as were other local celebrities, and ABBA’s manager Stig Anderson, who flew in to Sydney en route to a family Christmas holiday in Fiji. The remainder of the sell-out crowd were ABBA fans, many of whom had won their tickets, who couldn’t wait to see their heroes on the big screen.

The general release of THE MOVIE commenced the following day. It played in cinemas in all major cities, including Hoyts Regent and Astra Theatres in Sydney, the Palace theatre in Melbourne and the Center Cinema in Canberra, and cinemas in other Australian cities.

ABBA - THE MOVIE went on to have a reasonably successful run in Australian cinemas, while in other countries (notably in Europe) it was hugely successful, and is said to have been one of the top ten movies worldwide for 1978. It also enjoyed a successful run in the Soviet Union until it was reportedly banned by the authorities in 1981 after ABBA participated in the television special Let Poland be Poland. It has only screened on Australian network television twice, in 1979 and in 2001. It has had many screenings at revival cinemas in major cities during the 1990s and beyond, and was finally released on video (DVD) for the first time in Australia in October 2005.

Opening titles Closing credits
ABBA - THE MOVIE: In Their Own Words
ABBA - THE MOVIE on video
The Secret Guide to ABBA - THE MOVIE

© 1997, 2007 by Ian Cole, Sydney Australia