Cats have multiple lives in summer movies

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A kitten holds the title role in “Keanu.” | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Cats will no longer be overlooked at the box office.

The $9.35 million opening weekend of the kitten-centered comedy “Keanu” is just the beginning of a summer statement: Cats want stardom, and they want it meow.

A feline emergence is taking place in both live-action movies (Kevin Spacey is the voice of talking cat Mr. Fuzzypants in “Nine Lives”) and scene-stealing animated roles (“The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Wild Life”).

“This is indeed the year of the cat,” says Jordan Peele, “Keanu’s” star, producer and co-writer. “Cats have been overshadowed by dogs in this industry for far too long. It’s encouraging to see studios recognize [that] cat people buy tickets, too.”

Among summer’s dawning cat stars:

Mr. Fuzzypants in ‘Nine Lives’

Director Barry Sonnenfeld, who isn’t a cat lover, gives props to the five cats who play Mr. Fuzzypants alongside humans Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken in “Nine Lives” (in theaters Aug. 5). “Cats will be the next stars,” says Sonnenfeld. “I am impressed. I begrudgingly respect them now.”

Cheshire Cat in ‘Alice’

Stephen Fry will voice Chessur (aka the Cheshire Cat), who flashes that smile to Alice (Mia Wasikowska) once again in James Bobin’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (May 27).

Cat villains in ‘The Wild Life’

A deserted island is paradise to the animal population in “The Wild Life” (Sept. 9) until a shipwreck brings conniving cats Mal (voice of Jeff Doucette) and May (Debi Tinsley). “Since the island animals have never seen cats, there is no reason to fear them,” says co-director Ben Stassen. “They seem friendly enough, even to birds.”

Chloe in ‘The Secret Life of Pets’

“Secret Life” (July 8) features animated dogs and one bunny. But trailer scenes of cat Chloe (voiced by Lake Bell) losing her aloof cool for food have already struck a chord with cat lovers. “Chloe ends up being one of the movie’s more humorous characters, particularly when it comes to physical comedy,” says director Chris Renaud.

Shira in ‘Ice Age’

Big cats are hot as well, from the lion mayor in “Zootopia” to the black panther Bagheera in “The Jungle Book” (both in theaters). Jennifer Lopez continues the run, voicing the saber-tooth Shira in “Ice Age: Collision Course” (July 22).

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