Tom Hooper, the Oscar-winning director of The King’s Speech, is now adapting the long-running Broadway musical Cats with a star studded cast that includes Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, and Ian McKellen. We already knew that, but now we know when the film will arrive, and Universal has picked an interesting date to unleash the musical.
Cats will be released December 20th, 2019, which was originally where Universal’s Wicked was also scheduled to premiere, but that film will now get a later release date to accommodate its production schedule. But the reason this release date is interesting is that it’s the same day that Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled to drop.
Naturally, there’s no way Disney is moving Star Wars for Cats, so Universal is attempting a bit of counter programming here. They probably have something like The Greatest Showman in mind, which opened poorly in December but went on to become a smash hit thanks to word of mouth and repeat business all through January.
The resurgence of the musical in a post-La La Land world has shown that audiences want crowd pleasers in cinemas. When you consider the current political climate, it makes sense that people would want some serious escapism. Thus The Greatest Showman‘s rise to smash hit may prove to be no fluke, and studios are looking for a similar word-of-mouth appeal.
With most fans seeing Star Wars in its opening week, its possible Cats will have some staying power, which was also how Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle proved to be another surprise hit. That opened around the same time as The Last Jedi, but continued to pull in audiences throughout the winter season.
Perhaps scheduling films opposite Star Wars will become a legitimate tactic? Probably not, but it will be interesting to track how Cats performs when it arrives next Christmas.
As for Universal’s Wicked adaptation, no new release date has been set yet, which could signal that development has stalled a bit. Stephen Daldry (The Reader) had been attached to direct, but his name was not mentioned in the initial statement regarding the date change, so it’s unclear whether he’s still involved.