ABBA - THE MOVIE 25 years on

January 6th 2003 was the 25th anniversary of the first time that I saw ABBA - The Movie at the Center Cinema in Canberra, Australia's national capital city. It was also its first cinema screening in Canberra.

The opening session that day was as I recall 2 pm. There had been a one-off screening at the Sundown Drive In on New Year's Eve, but plead as I might, my parents wouldn't take us (because it was going to rain was the excuse). Though I've since heard that the sound was crap for most of The Movie that night.

Most of my circle of friends at the time met up at the cinema incredibly early - The Movie was the first session of the day at the cinema, and I think we must have got there just as the cinema opened. When other people started arriving, we made our way to the door to the cinema - making sure that we were right at the front. In the group of friends I had at the time, a few of them were ABBA nuts like me, but I think we got a few of the non-ABBA types there as well.

As soon as the doors to the cinema opened, we rushed in, but the ushers were only allowing people to it in the last 6 rows. Once those rows were pretty much filled up, they started letting people sit closer to the front, one row at a time. The first and I think only time I ever encountered anything like that. The cinema ended up pretty full.

There were a few shorts before The Movie started. One I remember was about horse shows and that sort of thing, and featured Princess Anne. I can't remember what other shorts there were now.

And then The Movie started. There was an air of excitement in the cinema as it started - I think people even applauded. I loved the opening - at least once it got passed the interminable opening scene with Ashley and the radio station manager.

I remember thinking how fabulous the concert footage looked - and how much more we could have seen if not for the crappy storyline. I don't know why Lasse Hallström felt that concert films were "boring" - at around the same time, The Band's concert film The Last Waltz was released to rave reviews. But then again, that had a cast of dozens of well known rock identities, not four plastic people from Sweden singing plastic pop songs (I paraphrase a typical review of ABBA here).

I remember being shocked at 'Get On The Carousel' - where the fuck did that song come from? I didn't remember it at all from the concert 10 months earlier (it's true! my notes from 3/3/77 do not have it listed - nor 'I Wonder', which shows how well the mini-musical registered at the time). 'Eagle' was stupendous - it was the first time hearing the new songs (aside from 'The Name Of The Game', which had been out for a couple of months). I also remember being incredibly jealous of every single fan who had an up close and personal ABBA moment. And pissed off that they didn't show me - I was at the concert, after all!!! ;-)

As I remember, everyone clapped and cheered at the end. It's sad to think that just a short while later, these same people probably would have denied even listening to ABBA, let alone being a fan or seeing The Movie.

The Album was released the following week (we got it in Canberra on the Friday). So I could enjoy those new songs and more in the comfort of my own bedroom. I was for some reason really excited to find that the introduction of Hole In Your Soul was the music from the opening credits to The Movie - I had feared that this punchy piece of music would not appear on record and I'd never hear it again.

I saw The Movie again a week or so after the first screening, and then for a third time in its final week in Canberra (which was I think the last week of January). I'd won a competition on a local radio station - the prize was a double pass to The Movie, The Movie poster, The Movie badge, and the 77 tour medallion. I gave the medallion away because I already had one - the cinema showing The Movie was selling them. The third screening was pretty empty - maybe 10 people in the cinema. And the sound was pretty crappy - one channel then the other would cut out whenever there was stereo effects going on (e.g. the musicologist talking on the left side, music or whatever playing on the right).

And then I thought I'd never see it again. When The Movie was shown on Australian TV in 1979, it wasn't in Canberra. So I thought the whole thing would be lost to me forever at that point. Who knew that there'd be video and then DVD? And who knew that there'd be an ABBA revival and it would play in cinemas and on TV again? Who knew that 25 years later we could enjoy it again and again and again?

7 January 2003


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