Universal has officially dated Working Title’s feature film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats for December 20, 2019. Wicked, Uni’s other Broadway stage musical feature adaptation, originally occupied this date, but now the pic is being moved to accommodate its production schedule.
Despite director Tom Hooper’s attachment over the last two years, we kept hearing that Universal hadn’t greenlit a Cats movie. That obviously changed when news broke about Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson and Ian McKellan joining the cast, and the release date here underscores that the film — which has long been in development by Hollywood — is finally becoming a reality.
Cats boards what will be a very busy Christmas 2019 stretch. On December 20 next year, Disney’s Star Wars: Episode IX opens along with Fox’s Death on the Nile, followed by Sony’s Masters of the Universe on Christmas Day. The thinking, based on the slow burn success of The Greatest Showman, is that even if Star Wars trounces on the musical’s opening weekend, the holiday and January box office will send ticket sales skyward, especially for branded property like Cats. If an original musical IP like Greatest Showman can post a near 20x multiple (from an $8.8M opening to $174M domestic final), Cats should have no problem.
Hooper directed Les Miserables for both studios, which resulted in close to $442M at the global box office, eight Oscar nominations for the film and three wins including a best supporting nod for Anne Hathaway. While most musicals are shot with a pre-recorded track, Hooper boldly shot the cast singing live on set.
There’s also been buzz that Webber is penning a new song for the feature musical for Victoria, a perky white kitten, and there will be a twist involving her character. And there’s potentially more new tunes that will be added. Cats the musical is inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
The musical follows a tribe of cats called the Jellicles over the course of one night as they decide which of their group will ascend to the ‘Heaviside Layer’ and come back to a new life. Dreamgirls Oscar winner Hudson is in line to play Grizabella, the former ‘Glamour Cat’, while McKellen may play Gus the Theatre Cat.
Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, as well as fellow Les Misérables producer Debra Hayward—who brought the idea to Working Title—are producers. Cats will be produced by Working Title Films in association with Monumental Pictures and The Really Useful Group and executive produced by three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg, Lloyd Webber and Angela Morrison.
Hooper and Lee Hall (Billy Elliott, War Horse) have adapted the story for the screen.
Cats received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981—where it played for 21 record-breaking years and nearly 9,000 performances. The stage musical was the winner of the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical. In 1983, the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and ran for an extraordinary 18 years.