Cats: Disastrous Flop–Cat-astrophe (Nicknamed)

When Universal first debuted the trailer for Cats, social media all over the world went through the roof.  Viewers simply could not believe what their eyes saw, a creepy, unappealing (risible) images of celines.

Like the musical, “Cats” centers on a tribe of cats called the Jellicles, one of which will be selected to receive a new life.

The initial  footage for director Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation gave a glimpse at the computer wizardry, a phenomenon known in popular culture as “digital fur technology,” used to transform the actors into four-legged felines.

The result, an unsettling amalgamation of CGI, shook Twitter to its core.  Cats developed a negative buzz–an unfavorable word of mouth–even before the film’s first screening, to the Hollywood Foreign Press.

All the other critics groups: National Board of Review, N.Y. Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Critics Choice Awards, had not seen Cats before voted on the best of the year (or nominations).

When Cats finally arrived in theaters, December 20, Universal relied on its  starry multi-generational, multi-national cast: Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Jason Derulo and James Corden.

The expectation were moderate, hoping for a gross of around $15 million in ticket sales. Instead, “Cats” fell short of expectations and clawed its way to $6.5 million at the domestic box office.

It is a dismal showing for any major studio release, but especially one that cost $100 million, and that is before accounting for global marketing, publicity, and distribution fees, which amount to at least another $20 million.

Any curiosity about “Cats” flamed out after critics ravaged the film. Reviews were brutal, picking apart the plot (or lack thereof) and the dodgy VFX. Instead of leaning into kitschy spectacle of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s off-kilter stage production, critics question Hooper’s unusually serious approach.

The movie was not even campy, goofy fun, but rather joyless and morose.

Bringing “Cats” to the big screen seems like an obvious choice. The stage show is bizarre, but it became a global phenomenon and endured on Broadway for decades.

Universal has scored with movie musicals like “Les Miserables,” The studio hired Hooper again after the director helmed the studio’s 2012 “Les Miserables.”  That musical was not critically acclaimed (we gave it C+), but it had a built-in audience.  Moreover, it earned $441 million globally, several Oscar nominations, and Oscar win for Anne Hathaway in the Best Supporting Actress category. 

Universal Musicals

Universal also succeeded with other musicals. “Mamma Mia,” toplined by Meryl Streep, and its 2018 sequel did extremely well at the box-office. And so did the “Pitch Perfect” franchise.

But Hollywood has missed the mark before when it comes to transferring stage musicals to the big screen.

The following movie musicals were all flops: “Rent” ($31 million in 2005), “A Chorus Line” ($14 million in 1985) and “Rock of Ages” ($59 million in 2012).