Mamma Mia! Is 15 Years Old – How The ABBA Musical Beat Terrible Reviews To Become A Beloved $1 Billion Franchise


The highly popular ABBA live-action musical Mamma Mia! has turned fifteen years old. The memorable movie was able to beat out a slew of terrible reviews upon its release to emerge as a beloved $1 billion franchise, defying all critical odds and even audience expectations. Mamma Mia! originally premiered on July 18, 2008 and produced a follow-up sequel in 2018 appropriately titled Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The two films have become heartwarming classics that successfully cross decades and connect generations with their highly original and catchy songs that have even found their way into modern Tiktok trends.


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Mamma Mia! consists of an all-star cast led by the incomparable Meryl Streep. The movie also features colorful performances from Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Julie Walters. Outside the movie’s unforgettable original songs, the film did a successful job of romanticizing its setting coastal setting in Greece and highlighting the significance of familial connection and following one’s heart. While the movie is full of clichés and familiar tropes, it accomplishes a fantastical sense of romance, purpose, and friendship that possesses redemptive qualities despite its over-the-top delivery and arguably cringe moments.

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The Original Mamma Mia Movie’s Bad Reviews Explained (& Why The Sequel Did So Much Better)

Donna and Sam on either side of a stone wall in SOS in Mamma Mia

The original Mamma Mia! got many bad reviews mostly because of some of the film’s major flaws from a technical standpoint. Critics who are used to analyzing the believability of actors’ performances and the thoughtfulness of directorial and cinematographic decisions could easily tear Mamma Mia! apart, and many of them did. There were also common complaints about the singing and choreography itself, which over time has clearly proven to be unsubstantiated based on the success of the film. At the time of the film’s release, the cultural norms of the late 2000s essentially labeled this movie a ‘chick flick’ which was a limited and inaccurate perception that led to a slew of negative and unfair criticisms.

The sequel to Mamma Mia! achieved more critical success than the original movie in part to the evolution of cultural perceptions as well as the significance of the film successfully capturing the original essence of the first some ten years later. Fans of the original Mamma Mia! were not disappointed by the feel-good sequel, which allowed for the franchise to continue in a positive light when it could have easily gone terribly wrong. The return of Streep and Seyfield also had much to do with the appeal of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as the film would not have been nearly as convincing without that winning onscreen duo.

Mamma Mia’s Ridiculous Story Never Mattered – Why The Movies Are Really Still So Popular

Sky and Sophie on the beach in Lay All Your Love On Me in Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia! simply represents a comfort watch for many viewers, which is precisely why its ridiculous story is essentially irrelevant. The film is at its core about letting loose and demonstrating an uncompromising degree of passion for life, love, and of course, singing and dancing. The film’s story becomes even less relevant considering the incredible star power that the ensemble cast has to offer. Many of the actors in Mamma Mia! have done dozens of serious, dramatic films that have already demonstrated their incredible acting abilities and mastery of dramatic storytelling. Mamma Mia! is not a serious drama but instead designed to be lighthearted and provides relief from the usual gravity of modern movies.

Some films, particularly musicals, actually benefit from having a story that doesn’t distract or weigh down the true spectacle of the movie, which is singing and dancing. The movies are not popular because they are advertising themselves as considerations for the Academy Awards or presenting themselves as thoughtful representations of reality. Both Mamma Mia! and its sequel have become so popular for the exact opposite reason why many films become successful or popular. By focusing on the fun-loving, unserious aspects of a lighthearted musical, the franchise actually excels by appealing to the sentimentality of the audience instead of trying to incite plot-induced adrenaline.

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Mamma Mia Is The Highest-Grossing Live-Action Musical Franchise With Over $1 Billion At The Box Office

Harry plays the guitar in Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia! is the highest-grossing live-action movie franchise in recent cinematic history. Even if viewers are not fans of the music, the impressive numbers that the Mamma Mia! films generated at the box office still have to be respected. The 2008 original movie made nearly $600 million at the global box office, while the 2018 sequel made $400 million. The first movie operated on a budget of just $52 million and the second had a budget of $75 million, meaning that both of these movies are extremely profitable. Hollywood, of course, is first and foremost an industry relying on profitable products, and both Mamma Mia! movies are undeniably money-making machines for production companies Playtone and Legendary Pictures and distributor Universal.

For context, one of the greatest superhero movies of all time The Dark Knight released on the same day as the original Mamma Mia! and made just over $1 billion with a $185 million budget. The Dark Knight generated a revenue 5.4 times what it cost to make while Mamma Mia! was able to accumulate a profit of 11.5 times its budget. Another popular live-action musical franchise Pitch Perfect hasn’t even scratched the surface of the total revenue of the two Mamma Mia! films despite having three separate installments. The three Pitch Perfect movies have generated a total of roughly $600 million at the global box office, another indication of just how successful the Mamma Mia! franchise actually is.

Mamma Mia’s Success After 15 Years Means Mamma Mia 3 Must Still Happen

Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, and Julie Walters in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The immense financial success of the two Mamma Mia! movies alone indicates that a third installment is highly likely to happen. With 2018’s return of the sequel showing no signs of the franchise losing interest, Mamma Mia! 3 seems like a safe bet for Universal who has faced a number of disappointments at this year’s box office so far with their Fast & Furious and Transformers franchises. Mamma Mia! 3 significantly benefits from not needing to rely on another brilliant idea to successfully extend the franchise. The main battle in making a third Mamma Mia! movie possible is dependent mostly on actor availability and interest. Based on the massive box office accomplishments of the previous two movies, it seems to be only a matter of time until another Mamma Mia! film is on the horizon.



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