The buzz that Tom Hooper’s “Cats” is going to be late to the finish line is true, but there might be an unreported twist. Yes, previews of Cooper’s big-screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber hit stage extravaganza has divided longtime fans and those who simply cannot understand why humanoid felines would sing. And how the production would even be staged for the big screen is one reason why it’s taken so long to happen. But, Hooper is the director of two Best Picture nominees (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Miserables”) and has guided actors to Oscar wins from three different pictures. So, polarizing giggling aside, no one was going to discount “Cats” as an Oscar player until it was screened. That’s going to be a slightly longer wait, but what would you expect from a CG heavy musical that wrapped “principal” production in March?
The Playlist learned a few weeks ago that “Cats” would not make any of the major guild deadlines (DGA, SAG, PGA) and screening a finished version for critics groups was out of the question. That being said, the Golden Globes weres sill up in the air. There was some discussion of letting the HFPA screen the picture as a defacto “work in progress” so that Globe friendly talent such as Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and Judi Dench could potentially have their moment in the sun. Considering Swift wrote an original song with Webber for the movie it’s not that surprising that Universal would float an idea. That being said, it’s still unclear if it will happen and we’ll update this post if and when we receive clarification.
As for Oscar, assuming “Cats” makes its opening release date of Dec. 20th there will be more than enough time for members to screen it before nomination voting begins on Jan. 2. Of course, a large number of AMPAS voters simply watch their screeners over the Thanksgiving and/or Christmas holidays without venturing to a public screening. It goes without saying that “Cats” will not have a physical screener ready in time, but could have a digital version available to stream on the Academy’s new screening hub.
Of course, at this point with Sam Mendes’ “1917” waiting in the wings an Oscar campaign for “Cats” may not be a huge priority for Universal. A crowd-pleasing hit along the lines of “The Greatest Showman,” might be much more preferable at this point. But considering how long it took to get made in the first place don’t count “Cats” out. It may still have one or two of those nine lives left.
“Cats” is scheduled to open nationwide on Dec. 20th.