Universal Quits Award Campaigning for ‘Cats’

Published on December 27, 2019

Cats have never suffered a worse death. Even before Tom Hooper’s $100 million adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical opened in theaters, it was as if pop culture had already decided to euthanize Cats.

The trailer was ripped to shreds across the interwebs as the felines’ uncanny appearance proved more nightmarish than fantastical. It never recovered from bad buzz, and based on the reviews, the disastrous box-office performance, and reactions from audiences, Cats is one of the most spectacular creative and financial failures in recent years.

Even after the movie opened in theaters to terrible reviews and no audience in sight, the news continues to worsen for Hooper’s ambitious failure. 

No Oscar Glory for Cats

Universal got the message nobody was going to cast Cats on their Oscar ballots. Months ago, the studio was positioning the musical as a real awards contender with a Christmas release date, campaign plans, and the works.

The studio was either trying to save face or was completely delusional about the end result. Now, they’ve wisened up and quit a fool’s mission of trying to get awards voters interested.

Even for an original song written by Webber and star Taylor Swift, the studio has given up, according to Variety. Universal has scrapped their “for your considerations” for Cats, removing mention of it from their FYC page.

Understandably, they have more faith in the likes of 1917, Us, and Queen & Slim

A New, New Cats

Months ago there was talk over whether Cats would be ready in time for awards consideration. The visual effects were far from finished at the start of December, so in the first trailer, what we saw were rough effects.

The cats didn’t get any less scary or off-putting in their final form, but still, Hooper and the VFX team were still tinkering with their looks until opening day. Over opening weekend, in an unprecedented move, Universal sent movie theaters new versions of Cats with more polished visual effects. Talk about a hopeless hail-mary pass. 

James Corden Hasn’t Seen Cats Either

When a movie is a dud, at least filmmakers can typically count on a cast to promote a movie the best they can. Few associated with Cats are coming out and screaming it’s getting a raw deal from audiences and critics, though, because it’s not.

Not even late-night host James Corden pretends everything is all well and good with Cats. He co-starred in the movie and looked absolutely terrifying. While on the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, Corden didn’t sugarcoat Cat’s reception.

I’ve heard it’s terrible,” he quipped. “I haven’t seen it. I’ll catch it one day, I imagine.” One person who has seen the movie, however, is Evan Rachel Wood, who had a field day with it.

It was actually worse than I thought it would be,” she wrote. Most actors don’t publicly diss movies or shows, as you never know who’s listening and it’s typically not a great look, but with Cats, nobody is going to look bad dragging the musical in the mud. 

A Silver Lining?

If there’s one silver lining about Cats, it’s getting reactions. People are talking. Maybe not talking about what Hooper had hoped, but still, it was a big part of pop culture in 2019 before it even came out.

For all the wrong reasons, Cats is quite an accomplishment in that regard. The sheer horror and confusion inflicted by Cats has provided some great entertainment.

There are people in the world enjoying the movie as one big piece of WTF-level camp, and at the very least, that’s better than nobody enjoying the film at all.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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