Ever since it was announced that the classic Broadway musical Cats would be made into a feature film, fans of the show have been jostling to see the adaptation. Unfortunately for them, the movie has turned out to be a far cry from the iconic musical penned by Andrew Lloyd Weber in the 1980s.
According to box office numbers, Cats (2019) is set to lose more than $71 million, making it impressive even by flop standards. The film opened to just $6.5 million, falling shorty of its projected $15 million in earnings. But why exactly did the Universal film fall so short of the mark, despite its all-star cast and family friendly rating?
In a nutshell, the answer is that Cats is just far too strange for most viewers. Reviewers of the film have complained that its CGI borders on the realm of being creepy or downright disturbing. So weird was the animation that the studio even released a new cut with updated effects after the original movie was released.
Poor Reviews from the Audience
The film’s awful reviews haven’t helped either. Cats has a paltry 18% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the audience gave it a slightly warmer score of 54%. Most experts have described it as confusing, baffling, and at times, inappropriately sexual as well. An overwhelming proportion of the audience would rather bet on Australian sports betting sites than watch Cats again.
These issues alone are enough to tank a film. Musicals normally perform well at box office, especially around the end of the year. Dreamgirls (2006) opened during the holidays and made a cool $154 million, while Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street raked in $152 million despite its R-rating.
Cats did not lack star power, either. Among its cast were Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Judy Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba and James Corden. However, its failure seems to have come from a far more serious judgement in error.
Targeting the Wrong Generation
Cats (the musical) had a legendary run on Broadway from 1982 to 2000. It was an essential pop culture artefact for older Millennials and Gen Xers, but Gen Z has had its own selection of blockbuster musicals like Wicked, Hamilton and Hairspray. The filmmakers may have been from the generation who loved Cats, but the young people of today are not.
Unfortunately, Cats was also hit with the ‘so bad it’s good’ level, likening it to Halle Berry’s Catwoman or most of Nicholas Cage’s films. However, as movie ticket prices climbed, spectators would have had to start shelling out up to $50 a ticket purely to see something for its shock value. Considering how affordable streaming services are in comparison, it’s no wonder that this particular film has already started to gather dust.
If Cats has any hope for the future, it may be as a midnight movie screening or rental option. Failing that, it may fade into obscurity altogether as its audience gravitates towards more modern, relevant pop culture creations.