It seems that any hope for the success of the Broadway-classic-turned-major-motion-picture Cats is, in the words of one of the musical’s greatest hits, a memory. The widely criticized adaptation could result in a $100 million loss for Universal Pictures after underperforming in the two weeks since premiering.
Despite its release during the busiest movie going time of year, Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Cats failed to gain traction bringing in $6.5 million from its United States debut. It has managed to bring in $38 million globally since its release; however, the movie Universal hoped would become a heartwarming hit akin to The Greatest Showman, is still operating at a significant loss. Cats reportedly cost $100 million to produce and an additional $100 million to market and distribute.
When the first trailer for Cats was released, the internet was in an uproar that can most accurately be compared to the dramatic, theatrical gasps from a stage production. Rather than excited anticipation, the trailer went straight to confused meme-making territory. With the holiday season coming to a close, there is little optimism that Cats will use one of its nine lives and experience a surge of popularity. Not with award contenders and fan favorites like Little Women, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Frozen 2 going strong.
At face value, a film adaptation of one of Broadway’s longest running musicals seems like guaranteed success. The show about a gang of cats competing for a spot in the afterlife has stood the test of time since it was first performed in 1980. The horrified response to the first trailer could have been seen as a prediction of the film’s lack of success. Not a single cat-related pun went unused as Cats contended with largely negative reviews from critics and moviegoers alike. Universal Pictures has since removed Cats from its award season “for your consideration” website. According to Variety, the film had no screenings until days before its nationwide opening in an attempt to quell online chatter and give the filmmakers more time to finish the final edits.
In a small consolation, Cats isn’t a complete loss. The musical’s composer Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote an original song for the movie with Taylor Swift titled “Beautiful Ghosts” that was nominated for a Golden Globe. The very same uncanny “digital fur technology” that unsettled viewers resulted in the film being shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination for visual effects.
It seems that no number of Jellicle cats competing for a new life will give new life to this film.