In a completely unprecedented move, Universal Pictures is still working on Cats and a new version will be delivered soon. The Tom Hooper-directed movie musical adaptation has had the critical equivalent of a tongue-lashing this week with reviews — including our own — panning the film from here to the Heaviside Layer. Saddled with a reported budget of $95 to $100 million, Cats is emerging from an abysmal opening weekend with just $6.5 million earned domestically.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, who obtained a copy of the Universal memo detailing this move, it seems the studio is going to give Cats “some improved visual effects” and will turn this new finished product in to all theaters currently showing it. Sources say Hooper is the one behind the orders. Right now, it’s unclear exactly what will be addressed in the current cut. Is the entire movie getting an update? Are there particular trouble spots which require immediate attention? Who knows! It is similarly unclear what the turnaround time on this effort with be but it will no doubt be an all-hands project considering the movie is…well, already in theaters. The running time on Cats will reportedly not be affected. Universal has yet to officially comment.
There were early signs of trouble for Cats when news from the December 17 press screenings in New York and Los Angeles appeared on Twitter. The film, which made its “digital fur technology” used to transform its cast into lifelike cats as a major selling point, was shown to critics just days before its premiere. Variety critic Caroline Framke shared on Twitter that Hooper revealed he had seen the last cut of Cats mere hours before it was shown to the press. For all the regular folks reading this, that is not a promising thing to reveal to a room full of critics about to review your movie.
And on Sunday morning, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor Jenelle Riley provided some insight into why Cats is getting some updated VFX. In a tweet featuring a photo taken during a Cats showing, Riley reveals cast member Judi Dench‘s very human hand with her very human wedding band still plainly visible in one close-up group shot. Even though the hands and feet of the Cats cast are still hands and feet, more or less, it’s clear that Dench’s hand hadn’t been touched by digital fur technology to make it slightly more feline.
Whether these improved visual effects Universal packs on will help redeem Cats remains to be seen. Right now, it will likely do more harm than good to the movie’s already poor standing with the public.
Cats is now showing in theaters.