FilmScene–The Chauncey — Friday-Sunday, Feb. 21-23
“You will believe,” promised the first trailer for Tom Hooper’s Cats, the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical, itself adapted from T.S. Eliot’s collection of poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. There was something ominous, perhaps even mildly threatening about this tagline. What will we believe? That the strangest Broadway hit of all time would make a good movie? That the human eye can tolerate nearly two hours staring at a screen full of CGI fur, ears and tails? That the cult of the Jellicles is valid, and that these cats aren’t just fighting year after year for the opportunity to be murdered by Dame Judi Dench? That anyone wants to see James Corden lap milk out of a bowl?
In any case, when the film finally premiered Dec. 20, 2019, not enough potential movie-goers believed in Cats to help Universal Pictures recoup its $95 million budget. But the film — starring Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson, newcomer Francesca Hayward and many more — arguably made a bigger splash than any other film this winter. And while most theaters let Cats out the door flap weeks ago, FilmScene is just jumping on Skimbleshanks’ train, with special screenings Feb. 21-23 at their Chauncey location.
Cats may not be a good movie, per se, but it was an enormous pop culture gift, delivered Game of Thrones walk of shame-style by an Oscar-winning filmmaker and slate of A-list stars who will undoubtedly be haunted by their participation in the film for the rest of their careers.
For most people, Cats will just be that movie with bad computer-generated human-cat hybrids, spawning a bunch of creepy memes. Those who actually saw it have undoubtedly found it to be great social currency: You either hated it, and get to forever spin a yarn about the worst movie you ever saw, or you had a sort of fun, loved it/loathed it/was absolutely gobsmacked by it experience, making for an even better story.
Merritt’s screening wasn’t the only one in which audience members cheered, shouted and offered comedic commentary. Spontaneous and organized “rowdy” screenings of Cats have taken place across the country, prompting speculation that Hooper’s flop may be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show.
FilmScene’s shows aren’t designated rowdy screenings, but interim executive director Andrew Sherburne said that as long as patrons are respectful of other viewers, they are allowed to express themselves.
“I expect it will be festive and wouldn’t be surprised to hear some cat calls and howling along to well known tunes,” Sherburne said in an email to Little Village.
FilmScene is hosting four Cats screenings, all at the Chauncey: 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets may be purchased on the organization’s website. Nine percent of ticket sales will benefit the Friends of the Animal Center Foundation.
If you do intend to sing along, be sure to brush up on the songs: