Tom Hooper’s Cats is really happening, you guys. The Oscar-winning The King’s Speech filmmaker is adapting the long-running Broadway musical with a star-studded cast, and now Universal Pictures has given the film a December 20, 2019 release date. That was when Universal’s Wicked movie was also scheduled to bow, but that film will now be re-dated to accommodate its production schedule.
Hooper followed up the Best Picture winner The King’s Speech with a different star-studded musical, Les Miserables, and while that film wasn’t the Oscar juggernaut some were expecting, it still performed solidly, winning three Oscars in total. Hooper’s most recent film was The Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne, which was a bit too staid and polite to make much of a mark.
For Cats, Hooper has assembled an ensemble that includes Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, and Ian McKellan. He penned the screenplay himself alongside Billy Elliott and War Horse scribe Lee Hall, and is reuniting with the folks at Working Title on the ambitious musical.
But I’ve buried the lede—the December 20th release date is the same date that Disney has staked out for Star Wars: Episode IX. There’s no way Star Wars moves, so Universal is purposefully doing a bit of counter-programming here. Perhaps they’re hoping they’ll have legs similar to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which opened around the same time as The Last Jedi but managed to bring in audiences throughout the winter season. Universal also no doubt has Fox’s The Greatest Showman fresh in their minds, which opened fairly poorly this past December but went on to become a smash hit due to word of mouth and repeat business all through January.
As for Wicked, director Stephen Daldry (The Reader) has been attached to direct the long-in-the-works adaptation of that Broadway musical, but his name isn’t mentioned alongside this release date switcheroo (he was also attached to the on-hold Obi-Wan Star Wars movie). And the fact that Universal didn’t simply announce a new Wicked date could signal that film’s development has stalled a bit, or perhaps they’re just still working things out.
Regardless, Tom Hooper’s Cats is coming next Christmas. Prepare your hottest takes.