“Cats” has received an endless barrage of bad box office numbers and even worse reviews since opening nationwide December 20, but the Tom Hooper-directed musical is now getting a small bit of good news: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow the new version of the movie shipped to theaters this week to compete for Oscars. Word got out during “Cats'” opening weekend that Universal Pictures was sending updated prints of the film to movie theaters across the country that featured more completed visual effects. The initial theatrical cut of “Cats” was widely mocked for featuring incomplete VFX, including one viral scene in which Judi Dench’s human hand appears without any fur.
The Academy confirms to The Wrap that the updated version of “Cats” with more completed VFX will be considered for Oscars. The news should come as a relief for Universal considering “Cats” managed to earn a spot on the Oscar shortlist for Best Visual Effects. That the Academy will judge the film’s updated VFX is good news for “Cats'” Oscar chances, as slim as they might be.
Academy rules and regulations state that a film must compete for Oscars with the same version used in its one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles. The rule reads: “The alteration of an achievement by changing a picture from the version shown in Los Angeles County, upon which eligibility is based, shall subject such achievement to the risk of being declared ineligible by the Board of Governors.”
“Cats” managed to sidestep this Oscar rule because it released an updated version during its first week. The original “Cats” theatrical cut opened Friday, December 20 and by Sunday theaters were able to download a digital copy of the film with updated VFX. A physical hard drive with the new version of “Cats” was sent to theaters by Tuesday, December 24. Because the updated “Cats” made it into theaters within the first week of release, the Academy will allow this new version to be considered for Oscars.
With its poor reviews and disappointing box office, “Cats” is not expected to be a major contender in any of the top Oscar races. The Best Visual Effects category is the film’s best shot at a nomination. “Cats” made the VFX shortlist opposite such films as “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King,” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”