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Mamma Mia! crosses $500 million worldwide

Arthur J Pais | October 06, 2008 15:27 IST
Last Updated: October 06, 2008 16:47 IST

A still from Mamma Mia!

The biggest hit of the year so far The Dark Knight [Images] is slowly approaching the $1 billion milestone worldwide but it is the continuing success of Mamma Mia! that is astounding Hollywood.

For the film, which cost just about $60 million (one third the budget of The Dark Knight) crossed $500 million mark worldwide this weekend, and with several territories including Japan [Images] to open in the next few months, the musical could end its run with $600 million worldwide.

And that would make the feel good musical one of the most profitable films of the decade, with plenty of money to flow from ancillary sales including DVD. Universal, which distributed the film worldwide, could easily see more than a $1 billion gross from the theatrical and ancillary sales.

The great success the film is enjoying has given a boost to the theatrical production of the show of the same name on Broadway in New York and several other venues including Berlin and Stockholm across the world. "We have seen the film and now we want to watch it live," is the comment you hear from the audiences in New York who pay about $85 to see the show live, eight times the money they would see spend seeing it on the screen. 

The film which uses some of the best songs of ABBA, the Swedish pop sensation of the 1970s and 1980s has by now grossed more than two times the solid take of the Oscar-winning musical Chicago. The songs include SOS, Money, Money, Money and Dancing Queen.

A sing-along edition with the subtitles of all the songs in the film was released in North America and reportedly brought an extra $10 million at the box-office. Sing along editions are being readied for many countries.

Mamma Mia [Images]! has not only become the highest grossing film in Meryl Streep's [Images] three decade long career but also for the former James Bond [Images], Pierce Brosnan [Images]. Though critics found his singing very awkward, the audiences love him playing one of the three men who could be the father of the soon would be bride.   

What has surprised Hollywood is that unlike most American musicals which do less business abroad than at home, Mamma Mia! gross abroad, especially in the United Kingdom, has dwarfed its performance in America.

According to the trade publication, Variety, the movie starring Meryl Streep as an American mother living in a small Greek island and hiding a secret from her soon to be married daughter, is generating unprecedented repeat audiences in the United Kingdom.

While the movies is ending its North American run with a strong $145 million could reach that level in the United Kingdom. Variety reported that the holdover biz continued to be exceptions there rising over the weekend 25 percent to $1.4 million in its 13th week for a cume of $123.3 million.

The film has done strong business in countries such as France [Images] and Italy [Images] that are not enthusiastic for American musicals.

The film is inspired by the Broadway and West End hit of the same name which was also directed by Phyllida Lloyd  responsible for the Broadway and West End shows.

Over the last decade the theatre version has become a major musical phenomenon: from smash hit in London [Images] to global sensation, the stage production of Mamma Mia! has already been seen by more than 30 million people in over 170 cities in eight languages around the world.

It has generated over $3 billion in ticket sales alone in theatres in cities including New York, Denver, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin, Athens and Moscow [Images]. The show has been seen by more than 750,000 people in Korea alone in the past three years where it has played in three cities including Seoul. The show makes Korean musical theatre history as having played the highest number of performances to the most number of people.

In addition to the box-office gross at the theatres, the show has also generated nearly $500 million in sales of CDs, shirts and other souvenirs connected to the musical. In North America, where the stage musical has played in more than 120 cities, it is the Broadway production which is the flag-carrier. Even in the fall months, when the box-office dips, Mamma Mia! is proving to be an exception grossing nearly $1 million a week in a theatre with nearly 1500 seats; on an average, 90 percent of the seats have been sold in September.

Now that the movie musical is getting ready to end its theatrical run in North America, it would be take a few weeks for the DVD and the Blue-Ray version to hit the market. DVD stores are expecting a record breaking performance in DVD sales and rentals that could exceed the theatrical gross of $145 million by a significant margin. 

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