‘Cats’ Box Office Hairball: How Much Money Could Tom Hooper’s Musical Lose?

Adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical will make a quarter of what “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” grossed

Last Updated: December 30, 2019 @ 8:13 AM

Tom Hooper’s big-screen version of “Cats” is continuing to cough up hairballs at the box office — with outside estimates of Universal’s total losses on the musical ranging from $71 million to $100 million.

After 10 days in theaters, the pricey adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London and Broadway hit has grossed only $38.4 million worldwide. Overall, box office analysts tell TheWrap that they expect “Cats” to finish deep in the red with a total domestic run of $40 million and a worldwide gross that would be lucky to reach $100 million — a devastating return considering the film’s reported budget of $95 million, before marketing costs.

With that result, the total gross for “Cats” would be more than 75% below the domestic and global totals of Fox’s 2017 musical hit “The Greatest Showman” and roughly a quarter of what Lionsgate’s Oscar-winning musical “La La Land” made the year before. (And “La La Land” had a $30 million budget and a screen count that did not exceed 2,000 until its eighth week in theaters.)

The film will also finish well below the returns for last December’s big musical, Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” which grossed $349.5 million on a reported production budget of $130 million.

Universal put big bucks on this adaptation of Lloyd Webber’s musical, with “The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper in charge and a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jason DeRulo and Jennifer Hudson.

But the moment the first trailer was released and the Internet got its eyes on the film’s CGI humanoid felines, “Cats” was subject to months of mockery culminating in a $6.5 million opening, 19% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a dismal C+ on CinemaScore.

And while Swift’s “Beautiful Ghosts” managed to snag a Golden Globe nomination, “Cats” was shut out of the short list for the Best Original Song Oscar, and the film has quietly been removed from Universal’s FYC page.

A rep for Universal had no comment Sunday on the box office performance of “Cats.”

The good news is that Universal still has a chance to land a big hit this winter. The studio’s true Oscar contender, Sam Mendes’ “1917,” made $1 million from its limited Christmas Day release and is expected to go wide on January 10 with strong word of mouth and possibly the most Oscar nominations of any film in this year’s awards field.

With heart-pounding action scenes and war drama, “1917” has an opportunity for widespread appeal similar to Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which grossed $526 million worldwide in summer 2017. While it will be difficult for “1917” to match that outside of the summer, it could quickly erase whatever writedown Universal will have to take on “Cats.”

And don’t expect “Cats” to put a stop to Hollywood’s enthusiasm for big-screen musicals. Warner Bros. is expected to find big summer success next year with Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” and Disney’s 20th Century Fox will try its hand with Steven Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story,” due next Christmas.

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