Universal Pictures has quietly pulled the plug on its Oscar campaign for Cats. The big-screen musical was a sight-unseen contender given its profile and pedigree, and indeed you’d be forgiven for previously assuming it could be an awards contender. Universal mounted the big budget adaptation with a star-studded cast, a new original song co-written by Taylor Swift, and Oscar-winning The King’s Speech and Les Miserables helmer Tom Hooper in the director’s chair. But once the first trailer dropped, the film’s potential to be a massive blunder came into view.
Hooper and Co. opted for a digitized version of the titular cats, using what was officially dubbed “digital fur technology” to turn James Corden and Idris Elba and Dame Judi Dench into literal cats. The whole thing looked like a nightmare, and while some found the film to be enjoyable in a campy sort of way, its high-profile Christmas release turned out to be a bust for general audiences.
So now, Universal is pulling the plug on the film’s Oscar campaign. It has been removed from the studio’s For Your Consideration page, and Variety reports that it is also nowhere to be found on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ streaming platform, where Academy members can stream contending films (perhaps maybe Universal can funnel some of that money into its Us campaign instead?). Adding insult to injury, the film’s one original song “Beautiful Ghosts” didn’t even make the shortlist for Best Original Song contention.
Cats earned only $6.5 million at the box office on its opening weekend—a dismal showing for a movie that cost at least $100 million to make and was marketed as a big holiday affair for the family. Reviews were unkind as well, but to be fair most pointed out that the source material was flawed to begin with—despite being a popular stage show, Cats famously doesn’t really have a plot.
Hooper was rushing to finish the film and in an unprecedented move, Universal actually sent an updated version of the movie to theaters after it was already released—a couple of VFX shots weren’t complete.
As much as I’m not really a fan of Hooper’s work, I have to acknowledge this must be a bummer of a situation all around, and Cats’ failure doesn’t appear to be on account of laziness. Give me a big, bold swing that doesn’t work over a safe and bland affair any day.
RIP Cats, we hardly knew ye.