‘Cats’ Opening Weekend: The Devastating Box Office Loss And Judi Dench’s Controversial Comments

If you’re looking for a different kind of movie to watch at Christmas, there are plenty of options in theaters. But Cats, which premiered shortly before the holiday, isn’t doing very well during what’s usually a good time of year for theatrical releases. From its visual effects to the comments of stars like Dame Judi Dench, let’s take a look at what people are saying about the new film.

‘Cats’ arrived in theaters on Dec. 20, 2019

Yes, two very talked-about, big-budget films arrived in theaters on Dec. 20, 2019. Both have received very sharp criticism. But while one features an at-times toxic fanbase and plenty of controversy, the other has been, for the most part, met with the fairly universal reactions. That, of course, is Cats.

The film based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical premiered on the Friday before Christmas. In addition to Dench, it stars James Corden, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Sir Ian McKellen, and Taylor Swift, among many others.

Critics and viewers had terrible things to say about it

The reactions to Cats were nearly as wild as the film itself. Even prior to its release, the trailers were harshly critiqued by many, while others were still excited for what looked to be a very strange time at the movies. And it seems as though everyone got more or less what they expected.

Still, the reviews from many were shockingly bad. NY Times critic Kyle Buchanan tweeted a string of disjointed thoughts about the film, while others were simply left speechless. All in all, it’s generally agreed that the film is absolutely bizarre in nearly every way, which works for some and not others.

A last-minute change to the film

In case this whole ordeal wasn’t baffling enough, even stranger news hit the internet nearly as soon as the film was out. Director Tom Hooper had stated at the premiere that it came down to the wire when he was finishing the film, but no one knew exactly how true that was until it was revealed that the visual effects in the first copy sent out to theaters needed amending.

First reported by Twitter user mike blacklist, a “patched” version of the film was later sent to all theaters, featuring “improved visual effects.” Writer Jenelle Riley later clarified that one of those fixes includes Dench’s left hand in a particular scene, in which it appears the needed effects were not applied.

How did ‘Cats’ do at the box office?

Given the importance of CGI, the last-minute changes, the A-list celebrities involved, and many additional specificities surrounding the film, it’s undeniable that Cats was an expensive movie to make. In total, its budget is estimated to be around $95 million. This is about the same as next year’s Sonic the Hedgehog, for reference.

Early U.S. box office numbers revealed that Cats made around 6.5 million in its opening weekend. That would make for a loss of almost $90 million. Globally, the film has brought in just around $10 million. It may be able to make some of this up over the holiday, but overall, things are not looking good for Cats.

Dame Judi Dench added more fuel to the fire

Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

As far as the stars of the film go, few have had much to say in the wake of its panned release. However, Dench did make an interesting note before the movie came out. Though she didn’t attend the premiere, the actress spoke to a number of outlets about playing Old Deuteronomy, a traditionally male role.

“I kind of call it ‘trans Deuteronomy,’ is the part for me, you know,” Dench told Out of her character. Whether she thinks she’s being “woke” or she’s swinging the opposite way and poking fun at being cast in the role we’ll likely never know. But it appears as though the controversy over Cats isn’t over just yet.