Box office projections for Cats illustrate opening directly against Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was a bad idea. In just a couple of weeks, the iconic Skywalker saga comes to a close via J.J. Abrams' latest film, making Star Wars 9 the premier moviegoing event of the holiday season. That said, The Rise of Skywalker isn't the only high-profile release looking to make a splash this month. Fellow studio tentpole Jumanji: The Next Level is poised to be a hit for Sony, and Universal is unveiling their new musical, Cats.
Whereas Jumanji has a one-week cushion before it has to deal with The Rise of Skywalker, Cats is debuting the same day as Lucasfilm's upcoming blockbuster. The idea behind that decision was to position Cats as a counter-programming option, appealing to a different target demographic. Unfortunately for Universal, their strategy is poised to backfire, with Cats looking at a serious uphill climb against intense box office competition.
According to THR (via Scott Wampler) Cats is projected to gross between $14-16 million domestically during its opening weekend. In stark contrast, The Rise of Skywalker is looking at a debut in the range of $175-200 million.
The Rise of Skywalker is currently projected to have the lowest opening weekend in the sequel trilogy, but it's still estimated to be a massive draw. If it reaches the high end of tracking, it'll have the second-highest debut of 2019, behind only the juggernaut that was Avengers: Endgame (a record $357.1 million). And with a little over two weeks remaining until Star Wars 9's premiere, there's a chance these box office projections trend upwards once word-of-mouth begins to spread. Should that happen, the situation could get even more dire for Cats, which is lacking significant buzz as its release date draws near. The musical is even missing out on awards nomination deadlines, further hurting its prospects. The biggest discussion point concerning Cats is its use of "digital fur technology" to create its cast of characters, rather than its quality as a film. If early reviews were out praising it, there's a chance the box office forecast would be much better.
Cats' production budget is reportedly $90 million, so the film doesn't need to break the bank in order to turn a profit. Still, odds are Universal was hoping for a debut a little higher than $16 million, and they'll need to hope the film has decent legs so it can become a success. That may not be so easy, since multiplexes will be packed with various titles in December. In addition to four-quadrant tentpoles like Jumanji and Star Wars, there will be awards contenders (Little Women, Bombshell), animated family films (Spies in Disguise), and everything in between. Cats may have to take a major loss in what is shaping up to be an ill-fated box office showdown.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Cats (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019