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Everyone hissed at Cats, but the campy flop is now clawing its way to insta-cult classic

By Josh Weiss
Ian McKellen Cats

Despite its poor reception upon release, Tom Hooper's Cats is only just beginning to cash in one of its eight remaining lives. Purrrr outlets like Vulture, the big-screen, all-star, and CGI-heavy adaptation of the famed Andrew Lloyd Webber stage production could be well on its way to becoming a cult favorite movie like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Room.

For example, a recent screening of the picture at L.A.'s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema found members of the audience dressing up in furs and licking milk-based cocktails out of "specialized saucers." Not only that, but the event soon became a rousing sing-a-long as feline-loving patrons belted out the musical numbers being performed onscreen. 

As such, the Alamo franchise has decided to continue to expand its limited-engagement screenings to theaters in Brooklyn, Denver, Austin, Phoenix, Kansas City, San Antonio, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Springfield, Missouri.

You're encouraged to boo, shout, and clap at rowdy screenings of the movie "Cats" at the Alamo Drafthouse Los...

Posted by Spectrum News 1 SoCal on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It all sounds pretty bizarre, but people are pouncing on the opportunity to interact with the movie like a cat pounces on the red dot of a laser pointer. Thanks to Alamo's "Rowdy" events — which encourage customers to dress up in costume and shout/sing at the screen — the film really is experiencing a second wind.

“All of our Rowdy screenings [for Cats] are sold out — the tickets are going like hotcakes,” Rachel Walker, head of programming and creative at Alamo’s Los Angeles venue, told Vulture. "People are going crazy!"

The success may have something to do with the drinking game tied to the screening, during which members of the audience take a sip of their alcoholic beverages every time a cat is introduced, a cat gets overly sexual, or a cat goes missing on a trash barge.

Then you've got people yelling "Deut!" and "Dench!" for the appearance of Old Deuteronomy, played by Judi Dench. And, of course, it wouldn't be a complete Rowdy screening of Cats without shouts of "Hands!" whenever a scene contains incomplete visual effects for an actor's hands. For example, many fans noticed that Dench's wedding ring was completely visible in certain shots.

Since opening in theaters back in December, Cats, released by Universal Pictures, has only lapped up a little over $65 million from the global box-office milk saucer. The film, which is said to have lost the studio $100 million, was also yanked from awards-season consideration after a few weeks. To make matters worse, a newer version of the movie with updated visual effects was sent to theaters days after opening. 

Cats currently holds a 20 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, but you can't really put a number on the joyous bonding experiences the strange flick has created for droves of viewers. For all its flaws, this could be the very thing that brings us all together as one species.

(SYFY, SYFY WIRE, and Universal Pictures are owned by NBCUniversal.)