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ABBA Voyage team ‘in talks’ for Elvis virtual show

The Swedish entertainment firm that helped bring ABBA Voyage to life is reportedly in talks to revive Elvis Presley in hologram form for live shows.

The Financial Times reports that Pophouse Entertainment, whose co-founder is ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, has engaged in discussions with Sony Music, which owns the rights to Presley’s work, and investment company Authentic Brands Group, owner of the singer’s image and likeness.

Ulvaeus teased the potential agreement at a conference in Germany earlier this month, saying: “I would like to see the young Elvis come alive again.”

Pophouse, Sony and ABG declined to comment on the report, which claims the talks have focused on a commercial partnership rather than a sale of the music rights or IP, as opposed to the recent deal that saw Kiss sells the rights to their name, music, image and likeness to Pophouse. The firm has confirmed plans for a Kiss avatar show in 2027, along with a biopic and themed experience.

Presley, who died in 1977 aged 42, was introduced to a new generation in 2022 via the smash-hit big screen biopic Elvis, directed by Baz Luhrmann.

A separate production, Elvis Evolution, is due to launch in London this November

A separate production, Elvis Evolution – a collaboration between Elvis Presley Enterprises, Authentic Brands Group and immersive specialist Layered Reality (LR) – is due to launch in London this November, with further stops planned in Las Vegas, Berlin and Tokyo.

The virtual concert will feature “a life sized digital Elvis” who will “share his most iconic songs and moves for the very first time on a UK stage”, made possible thanks to LR’s “unique blend of technology, augmented reality, theatre, projection and multi-sensory effects”.

A previous show, Elvis In Concert: Live On Screen, toured UK arenas in 2016. The concert experience, which was promoted by Kennedy Street and AAA in conjunction with Elvis’ estate, featured archive performance footage of Presley on video screens, accompanied live on stage by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The production returned to The O2 in London last year.

ABBA Voyage, which blends the virtual and physical worlds, has sold more than two million tickets since launching at the demountable 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ in 2022. Producer Svana Gisla gave an insight into the show during  Touring Entertainment Live (TEL) at this year’s ILMC.

 


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CAA strategy chief discusses potential of AI

Creative Artists Agency (CAA)’s head of strategic development says dead artists will able to continue reaching fans for generations to come thanks to AI.

“We’re seeing versions of that here in the UK with Abba Voyage,” said Alexandra Shannon at the Fortune Brainstorm AI conference in London.

“I think those sorts of experiences and ways to continue reaching fans for generations to come is a powerful opportunity.”

“They are still able to reach fans and engage with fans in the right way,” Shannon added, with the caveat that “they were in control of that.”

Shannon’s comments come as big-name artists such Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Billie Eilish endorse an open letter calling for a crackdown on their material being used to train AI without their permission or fair compensation.

In a bid to counter this, CAA are proactively creating “digital doubles” of its clients under a recent initiative called CAA Vault.

“We are scanning their image, we’re scanning their voice, we’re scanning likeness, and we are then storing that on their behalf,” Shannon said.

“We know that the law is going to take time to catch up, and so this is a mechanism for our clients to actually own and have permissions around their digital identity.”

“I think those sorts of experiences and ways to continue reaching fans for generations to come is a powerful opportunity”

“This provides a way for us to help set a precedent for anyone who wants to work with one of our clients in their digital identity,” she added. “There’s a mechanism to have them be compensated.”

Shannon also warned that using digital doubles of celebrities won’t be a cost-effecient alternative to the real deal.

“If you’re going to work with somebody’s digital self, you aren’t working with that business because you think you can work with that person in a cheaper way that is creating some big cost efficiency for you,” she said.

“At the end of the day, you’re working with somebody—the value is still in that person representing your brand.”

Abba Voyage is case and point, as one of the most expensive productions in music history at £140m (€164m) with an average ticket price of around £85 (€100).

However, the game-changing smash-hit production — which has sold over two million tickets — reportedly grosses more than $2 million (€1.6m) per week and the show’s producer has hinted at plans for global expansion earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Pophouse Entertainment, the Swedish entertainment firm that helped bring ABBA Voyage to life, recently closed a US$300 million with Kiss for the rights to their name, music, image and likeness.

As part of the deal, the firm has confirmed plans for an avatar show in 2027, along with a biopic and themed experience.

“Our mission is to fulfil the band’s vision to become immortal, and to let new generations discover and be part of the KISS journey and carry it forward,” says Johan Lagerlöf, head of investment at Pophouse. “With the help of the fans’ energy, the band, our expertise, and creativity – we will make that vision happen.”

 


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KISS close $300m deal with ABBA Voyage investors

Rock icons Kiss have sold the rights to their name, music, image and likeness, in a deal valued upward of US$300 million, with an avatar show confirmed for 2027.

Pophouse Entertainment, the Swedish entertainment firm that helped bring ABBA Voyage to life, has acquired the rights to the band’s logo, famed character makeup design, recording royalties and trademarks. The Associated Press and Bloomberg valued the deal at over $300 million, though Pophouse has not disclosed details.

“Our mission is to fulfil the band’s vision to become immortal, and to let new generations discover and be part of the KISS journey and carry it forward,” says Johan Lagerlöf, head of investment at Pophouse. “With the help of the fans’ energy, the band, our expertise, and creativity – we will make that vision happen.”

As part of the deal, the firm has confirmed plans for an avatar show in 2027, along with a biopic and themed experience. Pophouse, which ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus co-founded, said the deal would “unlock new audiences and revenue streams”.

“It’s an eternal symphony of rock ‘n’ roll immortality”

“We will safeguard and enrich this legacy through future global endeavours, by breathing new life into their characters and personas while also leveraging and elevating the visual world of KISS,” says Pophouse CEO Per Sundin.

The eight-foot-tall avatars of Demon, Starchild, Catman and Spaceman were introduced at the band’s final show at New York’s Madison Square Garden last December, with vocalist Paul Stanley saying today that the decision ushers in an “eternal symphony of rock ‘n’ roll immortality”.

“Our journey with Pophouse is fuelled by the desire to eternally resonate across diverse facets of global culture. As we embark on this venture, we aim to weave our legacy into the tapestry of different worlds, ensuring that the KISS experience continues to captivate both our devoted fans and those yet to discover the thrill,” says Stanley.

The London-based, renowned ABBA Voyage virtual concert — which has sold over two million tickets — reportedly grosses more than $2 million (€1.6m) per week. A smash-hit success, the show’s producer hinted at plans for global expansion earlier this year.

 


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ABBA Voyage producer hints at new venues worldwide

As one of the keynote interviews during Touring Entertainment Live (TEL) at ILMC, producer Svana Gisla gave a fascinating insight into the creation and operation of ABBA Voyage.

The smash hit show has so far has sold more than two million tickets for the shows in its purpose-built arena in London. And Gisla told delegates that the need to duplicate the tech for the groundbreaking production may soon become reality, as its owners and operators explore building more facilities to entertain fans around the world.

Gisla began by speaking about her background working for a division of Ridley Scott Films, where she was involved in making music videos for the likes of Madonna, Coldplay, the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé and Kylie Minogue among others.

Having created a company with a Swedish film director in 2015, she detailed working with David Bowie in the last six months of his life, and how she swore she would not work with music again. “Then ABBA called,” she laughed.

“In the beginning, we thought it might be a concert and a production that we could take on tour, but it cannot – that is impossible. It needed its own space, so it actually felt very normal that we would build our own arena, so I found myself going around London looking for land… and we found an old car park in the Olympic Park, infested with rats – it was perfect!”

“When you have a team of people who are all already excelling in their fields, and then they raise their game even higher, how can you fail?”

Explaining how the creation of the show happened across various pandemic lockdowns, Svana noted that the production had to marry the digital world with the physical arena. “Light is the connector – we have five different lighting systems,” she said. But she confessed that there was a fear that if they did not get everything perfect, ABBA Voyage could have become just like watching a film.

Noting another moment that had the potential to end the project, she revealed that during the motion capture element of creation, “The whole project nearly derailed when the boys found out that they would have to shave their beards.”

Costing £141 million, the entire venture was funded privately from Swedish investors. Responding to a question from moderator James Drury, Gisla stated, “The size of it did not scare me because when you have a team of people who are all already excelling in their fields, and then they raise their game even higher, how can you fail?”

Answering a question from a TEL delegate, Gisla show down suggestions that the ABBA Voyage team is working to create similar shows for other artists. Indeed, she also put the record straight about the many erroneous reports in the press about other companies claiming to be behind the show.

Gisla also ran through some of the astonishing statistics behind ABBA Voyage, saying that the show attracts 21,000 people each week and to date has sold more than two million tickets. “25% of the visitors come from overseas, and 80% of those come to London just to see ABBA,” she said noting that an economic impact study found that the production had generated £322 million for the local area in its first year.

“25% of the visitors come from overseas, and 80% of those come to London just to see ABBA”

Digging further into the numbers she said that 70% of the staff working on ABBA Voyage were hired locally, while the company does its best to be part of the community in its East London location.

“You cannot just come in and take – you have to give something back,” she said. “We do workshops for the local schools and explain to the kids how we did the show, giving them the experience behind the scenes of one of the most high tech shows ever created.”

Describing the purpose-built arena as “the least demountable demountable building,” Gisla concluded that although it is impossible to take the production on the road, its creators are in talks to duplicate the venture in the likes of the United States, Australia and elsewhere in Europe. “It’s a complicated beast, however, because you need to have one million visitors per year to make it a viable business,” she added.

Leading executives from the world’s biggest and most successful touring shows and exhibitions gathered for the inaugural TEL on the final day of this year’s sold out ILMC to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the multi-billion dollar sector.

Companies attending included ASM Global, Live Nation, FKP Scorpio, Kilimanjaro Group, Neon, Semmel Exhibitions, Fever, TEO, RoadCo Entertainment, Terrapin Station Entertainment, Cirque du Soleil, Harlem Globetrotters, Imagine Exhibitions, Broadway Live, Pophouse Entertainment, Layered Reality.

AEG Europe, Great Leap Forward, Science Museum London, lililililil, Imagine Exhibitions, Universcience, Proactiv Entertainment, Let’s Go Company, MB Presents, World on Ice, Expona, Slam Dunk Entertainment, World Concert Artists, Grand Palais Immersif, Fierylight and Opus One were also in attendance.

 


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ABBA Voyage to hold first ‘calmer concert’

ABBA Voyage in London will hold its first calmer concert, catering to those with sensory processing needs.

The smash-hit virtual concert residency has teamed up with A Relaxed Company, which advises productions and venues on accessibility for neurodiverse and autistic audiences, for the concert on 25 April.

Provisions will be made across ABBA Arena to ensure that those with sensory processing needs can enjoy the concert, including extra trained staff on hand, reduced arena capacity and chill-out zones around the venue.

A sensory setlist outlining what to expect from every song during the concert and a visual story explaining what to expect from the venue are available for any customers who would benefit from them. Sound and lighting at the concert will remain the same.

“ABBA Voyage is a magical experience, and we are so glad that the team is holding the calmer concert so that everyone can experience it,” says Katherine Usher and Chris Pike, co-founders of A Relaxed Company.

“We’ve been working with the whole team to ensure that the concert is ready to welcome everyone, whether you’re neurodivergent, sensory sensitive, or just looking for a calmer alternative.”

“ABBA Voyage is a magical experience, and we are so glad that the team is holding the calmer concert so that everyone can experience it”

ABBA Voyage debuted at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in May 2022 to universal acclaim.

Held at the purpose-built 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ under the direction of producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson and director Baillie Walsh, the show grossed more than $2 million (€1.87m) a week, it was reported last year.

One of the most expensive productions in music history, the £140m (€164m) show has brought the Swedish group – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus (co-founder of lead investor Pophouse Entertainment), Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – back to the stage in avatar form, supported by a 10-piece live band.

The four members of ABBA spent five weeks being filmed by 160 cameras for motion capture as they performed the 22 songs that make up the show’s 95-minute runtime. Other key team members include co-executive producer Johan Renck, choreographer Wayne McGregor and AV tech specialist Solotech UK, led by director of special projects Ian “Woody” Woodall.

ABBA Arena is designed to fit 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350. According to Bloomberg, the residency has already generated upwards of €140m in sales after selling over 1.5 million tickets, achieving a 99% occupancy rate with an average ticket price of around £85 (€100).

Discussions are reportedly taking place to expand ABBA Voyage to cities including Las Vegas, New York, Singapore and Sydney.

 


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Kiss tease virtual concert tour – for 2027

Kiss have teased their “new era” as a virtual band will begin in three years’ time following their recent retirement from touring.

The American rock legends unveiled their 8ft “superhero” avatars – created by the team behind ABBA Voyage – during the encore of their retirement show at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) last month, which was livestreamed worldwide on pay-per-view.

The digital avatars were designed by George Lucas’ San Francisco-based Industrial Light & Magic and financed by Pophouse Entertainment, which was co-founded by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus.

Now, the group have shared a short promotional video entitled: “50 years is a long time, and what the future holds is in the making,” which states that “a show is coming” in 2027. The video includes quotes from Kiss’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, as well as fans of the band.

“We can live on eternally”

“The future is so exciting,” says Simmons in the below clip, with Stanley adding: “We can live on eternally.”

Kiss concluded their near five-year, 250-show End of the Road Tour at MSG on 2 December 2023. The group will also live on through other ventures including a Las Vegas museum, cruises, and a forthcoming movie and cartoon.

“Everybody should really look forward to what is going to come,” the group’s longtime manager Doc McGhee told IQ last year. “With the technology that we have, I think you’re going to see this manifest into something completely crazy – a mind-blowing experience.”

The virtual show will follow in the footsteps of the smash-hit ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency, which has created a new model for legendary artists since debuting to widespread acclaim in 2022, reportedly grossing more than $2 million (€1.6m) a week.


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Kiss to live on as virtual band after final gig

Kiss gave a glimpse into their future as a virtual band at their “final ever” concert after unveiling digital avatars created by the team behind ABBA Voyage.

The American rock icons debuted the technology during the encore of their retirement show at New York’s Madison Square Garden on 2 December, which was livestreamed worldwide on pay-per-view.

Their 8ft “superhero” avatars – Demon, Starchild, Catman and Spaceman – were designed by George Lucas’ San Francisco-based Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and financed by Pophouse Entertainment, which was co-founded by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus.

“This is the sneak peek as the band crosses over from the physical world to the digital,” Grady Cofer, visual effects supervisor at ILM, tells Fast Company. “We want to give fans a sense of the many forms this band could take in the future.”

In a video posted in the wake of Saturday’s swansong, Kiss singer Paul Stanley said: “The band will never stop because we don’t own the band. The fans own the band, the world owns the band.”

“We can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamt of before”

“We can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamt of before,” added bassist Gene Simmons. “The technology is going to make Paul jump higher than he’s ever done before.”

While Thierry Coup, ex-chief creative officer at Universal Destinations & Experiences, has been hired as the virtual show’s creative director, Pophouse CEO Per Sundin says where it goes from here is yet to be finalised.

“We’re going to figure it out after the tour,” says Sundin. “Is it a Kiss concert in the future? Is it a rock opera? Is it a musical? A story, an adventure?”

The 50-year-old band’s longtime manager Doc McGhee hinted at the avatar plans in a career-spanning interview with IQ earlier this year.

“2024 will bring something new and something that the business has never seen before,” he said. “Everybody should really look forward to what is going to come. With the technology that we have, I think you’re going to see this manifest into something completely crazy – a mind-blowing experience.”

“If you are an artist, you can create your legacy in a way you never could before”

Kiss, who initially announced their retirement in 2000, began their 250-show End of the Road Tour in Vancouver, Canada in January 2019. The group will also live on through other ventures including a Las Vegas museum, cruises, and a forthcoming movie and cartoon.

The smash-hit ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency has created a new model for legendary artists since debuting to widespread acclaim in 2022, reportedly grossing more than $2 million (€1.6m) a week.

Held at the purpose-built 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park under the direction of producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson and director Baillie Walsh, the £140m (€164m) show has brought the Swedish group back to the stage in avatar form, supported by a 10-piece live band.

According to Bloomberg, ABBA Voyage has achieved a 99% occupancy rate with an average ticket price of around £85 (€100) and discussions have taken place to expand the production to cities including Las Vegas, New York, Singapore and Sydney,

“If you are an artist, you can create your legacy in a way you never could before,” said Sundin. “This is such a success. We already have been talking to some artists that really want to do this.”

 


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ABBA Voyage takings ‘more than $2m a week’

The smash-hit ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency has created a new model for ageing legends after grossing more than $2 million (€1.87m) a week, according to a new report.

Held at the purpose-built 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ under the direction of producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson and director Baillie Walsh, the show debuted at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in May 2022 to universal acclaim.

One of the most expensive productions in music history, the £140m (€164m) show has brought the Swedish group – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus (co-founder of lead investor Pophouse Entertainment), Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – back to the stage in avatar form, supported by a 10-piece live band.

ABBA Arena is designed to fit 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350. According to Bloomberg, the residency has already generated upwards of €140m in sales after selling over 1.5 million tickets, achieving a 99% occupancy rate with an average ticket price of around £85 (€100).

Discussions are reportedly taking place to expand ABBA Voyage to cities including Las Vegas, New York, Singapore and Sydney, and Pophouse CEO Per Sundin says other icons have expressed interest in developing similar productions.

“If you are an artist, you can create your legacy in a way you never could before”

“If you are an artist, you can create your legacy in a way you never could before,” Sundin tells Bloomberg. “This is such a success. We already have been talking to some artists that really want to do this.

“ABBA has done it again. They were early to music videos, they were early to jukebox musicals.”

The four members of ABBA spent five weeks being filmed by 160 cameras for motion capture as they performed the 22 songs that make up the show’s 95-minute runtime. Other key team members include co-executive producer Johan Renck, choreographer Wayne McGregor and AV tech specialist Solotech UK, led by director of special projects Ian “Woody” Woodall.

Speaking to IQ last year, Ludvig Andersson (son of Benny) said the show was six years in the making.

“An idea came to the Stockholm office of ABBA that it might be possible to create digital versions of themselves, and that’s basically how it started,” he said. “Then followed three years of research and development: a lot of conversations around tables in different cities, with different people about what can and cannot be done. Slowly, slowly through that process, we ended up with the idea that became what it is today.”

 


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ABBA Voyage to embark on global tour

The wildly successful ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency is set to tour the world, Universal Music Group chair Lucian Grainge has revealed.

More than one million tickets have been sold for the production, which has been a sensation since debuting at the demountable 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in May 2022.

The project, which blends the virtual and physical worlds, brought the Swedish group – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus (co-founder of lead investor Pophouse), Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – back to the stage (in avatar form) for the first time in 40 years, backed by a 10-piece live band.

The four members of ABBA spent five weeks being filmed by 160 cameras for motion capture as they performed the 22 songs that make up the show’s 95-minute runtime.

“Plans are now in development to take ABBA Voyage around the world”

“Plans are now in development to take ABBA Voyage around the world,” said Grainge during UMG’s Thursday (2 March) earnings call, as per Variety. There has been no indication as to when the tour will start, with Universal and ABBA yet to comment further on the plans.

The purpose-built ABBA Arena was devised by entertainment architect Stufish, under the direction of Gisla, fellow producer Ludvig Andersson and director Baillie Walsh. The structure is able to be relocated to another site at the end of its London tenure.

“There’s no reason why it couldn’t run and run and tour,” producer Svana Gisla told IQ last year. “It’s almost unbelievable how well it’s been received and continues to be received. It’s a special experience for us to be inside that auditorium with 3,000 people and watch people having such fun.

“This has never been about technology. This has never been about creating a spectacle. This has always been about creating the best possible ABBA concert we could. And every single decision, every step of the way, has been considered with only that in mind.”

 


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Behind the ‘madness’ of ABBA Voyage

The team behind the smash-hit ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency have revealed the secrets of the revolutionary production in a new interview with IQ.

The project, which blends the virtual and physical worlds, reportedly had a budget of $175 million and brings the Swedish group – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus (co-founder of lead investor Pophouse), Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – back to the stage (in avatar form) for the first time in 40 years, backed by a 10-piece live band.

Held at the demountable 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ – a purpose-built venue devised by entertainment architect Stufish, under the direction of producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson and director Baillie Walsh – the show debuted at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in May to rave reviews.

Walsh had previously collaborated with Gisla on projects including the Springsteen & I and Oasis’ Lord Don’t Slow Me Down documentaries.

“I knew I could really push boundaries”

“She suggested I go on a call with Benny and Björn, but the idea wasn’t fully formed at that point,” he explains. “It was more of a cinematic idea, but there was a roadmap so that was something to work from. I just had to sit down and work out, essentially, what would I want to see? What’s going to get 3,000 people a night into that arena?

“There was no brief in a sense, but we had the avatars and the sense of these younger versions of ABBA – 1979 was our reference point – and ABBA were very trusting with me. We communicated well and liked each other, and that is essentially how I got the job. They put together a great team before I came on board like [visual effects company] ILM, for starters. So I knew I could really push boundaries.

“As the arena was being built, we’d visit and look up at that screen and go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s the size of a tower block!’ That was daunting, but exciting – it’s not often you get opportunities like this.”

Hundreds of thousands of tickets have already been sold for the production, which is currently booking until late May 2023. Ludvig Andersson (son of Benny) tells IQ the show was six years in the making.

“An idea came to the Stockholm office of ABBA that it might be possible to create digital versions of themselves, and that’s basically how it started,” he says. “Then followed three years of research and development: a lot of conversations around tables in different cities, with different people about what can and cannot be done. Slowly, slowly through that process, we ended up with the idea that became what it is today.”

“The whole project is complete madness and always has been”

The intervention of the pandemic in 2020 set things back by at least six months, however, remembers Gisla.

“It almost pushed us down,” she admits. “We needed to convince a lot of people that this mad idea – that became insanity overnight when Covid struck – was going to be okay, so that took a while.”

“The height of the pandemic coincided with Svarna and me trying to get people to give us money which, in their defence, they ended up doing,” notes Andersson. “But, of course, it was a challenge to convince people not only of the qualities of a show that didn’t exist yet, but also of a project that was based on getting 3,000 people to come into a space during a time when no one was allowed to come into any space of any kind.”

The world’s largest demountable temporary venue, ABBA Arena is designed to fit 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350. Outside the auditorium is a sheltered, extended concourse area used to serve visitors. Tickets are priced from £21 to £175, with a variety of different ticket types available for the concerts, including general admission (standing), auditorium seating and dance booths – of which there are eight, each named after people from the ABBA universe.

“This whole concept is complete madness and always has been,” grins Gisla. “There’s an audacity to the scale that is ridiculous. When Ludvig, Baillie and I did the fundraising, we were describing to investors what it was going to be, but we had nothing to show them. It was incredibly difficult and, had it not been ABBA, it would have been impossible.”

“This is an ABBA concert… They’re as involved in this as they would be in any other concert they’ve ever done”

The four members of ABBA spent five weeks being filmed by 160 cameras for motion capture as they performed the 22 songs that make up the show’s 95-minute runtime.

“They have been very hands on, incredibly so,” suggests Gisla. “It wouldn’t be possible without a considerable input from them because this is an ABBA concert. We’re not franchising anything, this is their concert, so they’re as involved in this as they would be in any other concert they’ve ever done. We’re really proud of it and ABBA are too.”

“ABBA came up with the setlist; I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to suggest to them what songs they should be playing,” laughs Walsh. “ABBA always wanted a live band, but when we had the live size avatars it made perfect sense because it added to the idea of, ‘Where does reality end and digital begin? And so I could really play with that. That is another big idea in the show – where you just don’t know where the digital world ends and reality begins.”

Other key team members include co-executive producer Johan Renck, choreographer Wayne McGregor and AV tech specialist Solotech UK, led by director of special projects Ian “Woody” Woodall.

“There is no reason why it couldn’t run and run and tour”

The ABBA Arena structure is able to be relocated to another site at the end of its London tenure.

“There’s no reason why it couldn’t run and run and tour,” finishes Gisla. “We’ve done lots of things in our lives, but these last few years have been the single most enjoyable years of our careers.”

While ABBA Voyage debuted to universal acclaim, Walsh says his initial response to the positive reception was one of “enormous relief”.

“It’s obviously been a long process,” he says. “It’s been in my head for a long, long time and it wasn’t until a couple of months before we opened that I actually got to see what was in my head, so that was a big moment. And then to see it with an audience, which brings that extra element to show, was a wonderful thing. I couldn’t have wished for a better response. It was emotional.

“What I wanted to achieve was, can you be emotional about an avatar? Can you fall in love with an avatar? And I think we have achieved that. What I see every night is such a vast range of emotion: there’s pure joy, but there are a lot of tears, as well as that confusion about, ‘What am I seeing? What’s real and what isn’t?’ So for me, creatively, it’s been really successful.

“It’s rare as a filmmaker that you get this opportunity to see a response to your work in this way because usually, it’s in a darkened cinema where there is no applause and no direct response. Seeing this visceral response to something that I’ve made is a complete joy.”

“We wanted people to feel something. If they had gone away just thinking, ‘Wow, that was cool technology,’ we would have failed completely”

Gisla echoes those thoughts, describing being able to witness the reaction first-hand as a “privilege”.

“It’s wonderful,” she says. “It’s almost unbelievable how well it’s been received and continues to be received. It’s a special experience for us to be inside that auditorium with 3,000 people and watch people having such fun.

“This has never been about technology. This has never been about creating a spectacle. This has always been about creating the best possible ABBA concert we could. And every single decision, every step of the way, has been considered with only that in mind.”

“All we ever wanted was for people to feel something,” nods Andersson. “If they had gone away just thinking, ‘Wow, that was cool technology,’ then we would have failed completely.

“It’s really hard to take in that all this work that all these people put in actually seems like it worked, and that is something special. I still can’t really fathom that we got this far and that it went so well. We often say that our job has been to get out of the way and let this magical mystery train keep chugging, and that is testament to the extraordinary people involved, who have gone above and beyond to make these ideas reality.

“We’ve been trying for six years to describe what this show is and even now, when it exists, it’s impossible. You just have to come and see it.”

 


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