December 30, 2019
"This felt more like an an art house musical," says one Box Office analyst in commenting on the clawless performance of the $100 million movie.
Cats Box Office Bust: A Tale Spurned by Families
Over the Christmas holiday in 2017, The Greatest Showman was initially labeled a box office slob when posting a first-weekend gross of $8.8 million. The following weekend, as kids and their parents began discovering the Hugh Jackman musical, the Fox pic saw a 76 percent uptick on its way to grossing $174.3 million domestically and $435 million globally.
Two years later, Tom Hooper's Cats has been banished to the litter box at the year-end box office despite a PG rating, the same as Greatest Showman, after being rejected by families.
When Cats — which presently stands to lose at least $50 million to $75 million against a budget of roughly $100 million before marketing — debuted to a dismal $6.6 million over the Dec. 20-23 weekend, partners Universal, Steven Spielberg's Amblin and Working Title remained hopeful that the pic would find its stride over the lucrative Christmas corridor.
Such wasn't the case.
Cats fell to No. 8 over the long holiday frame (Wednesday through Sunday) with an estimated $8.8 million for a 10-day domestic total of $17.9 million. That includes $4.8 million for the weekend proper, a decline of 27 percent (almost every other title in the top 10 saw an uptick).
Domestically, the film may top out at less than $45 million. And Cats can't pin its hopes on the foreign box office, where it has grossed just $38.4 million to date.
"It doesn't feel like a family title despite the PG rating. This feels more like an art house musical," says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.
Over the Dec. 27-29 weekend, younger kids represented 21 percent of the combined demos turning out to see Cats, according to Comscore's and Screen Engine's exit polling service PostTrak. That compared to a whopping 41 percent for Spies in Disguise, an under-the-radar animated pic from Fox/Disney that debuted Christmas Day and posted a five-day debut of $22.1 million.
Frozen 2, which opened at Thanksgiving, also remained a big draw with the younger crowd. The animated Disney sequel grossed $16.5 million for the five-day holiday — more than triple Hooper's star-studded, fur-laden extravaganza in its sophomore outing.
Cats is also not clicking with older Broadway fans.
According to PostTrak, 22 percent of the general audience buying tickets to see Cats this past weekend were 44 and older, including 11 percent over the age of 55.
In stark contrast, 36 percent of ticket buyers to Sony's Christmas Day offering Little Women were 44 and over, including 21 percent over the age of 55.
"Certainly, the critics' response was rough," says Dergarabedian, noting Cats' current Rotten Tomatoes score of 18 percent.
Cats became the ridicule of social media upon the debut of the first trailer earlier this year. And in mid-December, Hooper revealed that he barely finished the VFX-heavy film in time for the world premiere in New York City.
The maelstrom continued when Universal sent an updated version to thousands of theaters with "improved visual effects" several days after Cats had officially opened.
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