No amount of star power from Taylor Swift, James Corden, Idris Elba, Jason Derulo, etc., nor the direction of Oscar-winner Tom Hooper, could save Cats at the global box office.
Our finance sources informed us over this weekend that the Universal/Amblin/Working Title feature adaptation of the near $4 billion-grossing Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical is bound to lose at least $71M — that is, if the pic reaches a global box office result of $100M, meaning $40M stateside and $60M abroad. This is based off a production cost of $90M net–the pic was shot on soundstages in London–and a $115M estimated global P&A spend.
Broken further out, total WW theatrical rentals, global free/pay TV, and global home entertainment revenues, including streaming, are expected to total at least $155M. Home entertainment costs plus global P&A stands around $226M, we’re informed. Universal wasn’t available for comment on these numbers.
We went into a deep dive last week as to why Cats went sideways. But, in short, let’s just say that there was a reason why this unusual, song-driven (not plot-driven) musical based on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 book of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, didn’t make it to the screen sooner. The whole concept of humans-dressed-as-felines and crooning away might seem ripe for live-stage theater crowds, but it’s enough to make critics break out in hives (20% Rotten) and, unfortunately, audiences too (C+ CinemaScore, and now 1/2 star from Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak moviegoers). In the mid ’90s, Amblin pondered an animated version, but then bailed on it when they shuttered their animation arm.
In the wake of musicals, from Broadway/London adaptations like Hooper’s Les Miserables ($441.8M WW) to original ones like The Greatest Showman ($435M), and titles based on pop musicians, a la Bohemian Rhapsody ($903.6M) being sound-proof forms of counter-programming against superhero IP at the box office — just because people sing doesn’t mean a musical is destined to succeed.
Uni put this project in the capable hands of Hooper, who, in my opinion, made the best big screen version of this musical possible (seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this), and they cast it up to hit demos from the teens, with Swift, to sophisticated adults with Judi Dench and Ian McKellan. But it was the whole concept of Cats in and of itself that got its tail stuck in a mousetrap.