It will take more than a bozo show to keep the circus business alive

February 5, 2018 6:29 pm


The UAE is basking under the Cirque Du Soleil’s AVATAR theme.

The world renowned entertainment venue has a spectacular 90-minute with acrobatics, stunning visuals and 2.5 million litres of water being used to great effect throughout the brand new touring show, called Toruk – The First Flight.

Inspired by James Cameron’s movie Avatar, the show at Dubai World Trade Centre extends to January 17.

But the circus concept, in general, is in trouble.

The crowds of years past are thinning. Bozo the clown, jumping juggles and card tricks won’t do it anymore.

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It’s taking a grand movie blockbuster’s theme to bring the masses back to their popcorn seats.

The previous Greatest Show on Earth crashed, and others are following.

What’s happening to the Circus?

Barnum & Bailey Circus

For years, the elephants have been in the spotlight at Barnum & Bailey but due to mounting criticism from animal rights groups, the Ringling Bros. phased out the elephant acts entirely.

And after “the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw a dramatic drop” in ticket sales, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, told USA Today daily.

Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise in May last year, according to Business Insider (BI).

“There isn’t any one thing,” said Feld. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

Vargas: Struggling to survive

To keep this small California-based traveling circus profitable, Circus Vargas’ 100 employees each work two or three jobs, some less glamorous than others, according to LA Times.

LA Times reveals that Facundo Kramer, a juggler and acrobat, also hustles popcorn and cotton candy. At intermission, performer Annabel Bachliyski comes off the trapeze to paint children’s faces.

“Every single person in our show wears many hats,” said Nelson Quiroga, who co-owns the circus with his wife, Katya, and drives one of seven big rigs that haul the giant tent and other equipment from town to town.

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LA Times added: “In addition to assigning workers double duty to keep costs down, Circus Vargas long ago ended its animal acts, which eliminated the expense of caring for and housing the creatures as well as cut the need to meet strict animal welfare regulations.”

While Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Vargas have had their shares of bad acts, other circuses are reinventing themselves to keep the show running.

The brand making a stand in all of this is Cirque Du Soleil. Does it have a trick up its sleeve?

Cirque Du Soleil:  Success story

Cirque Du Soleil was acquired by TPG Capital for $1.4 billion in 2015.

According to Fortune, a business magazine, TPG has an extensive résumé when it comes to helping artistic enterprises grow—and it has much grander plans.

“Since the transaction, it has made sweeping changes, moving quickly to identify and exploit opportunities that may have been anathema to Cirque’s original managers, who preferred a more loosey-goosey approach to scaling the company,” it said.

It added that TPG has replaced nearly all the executive leadership.

“The private equity giant cleaned up Cirque’s financial practices and implemented data analytics and discipline where once there was mostly instinct. And, yes, the new team found ways to cut costs,” it said.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News revealed that TPG helped beef up marketing to revitalize sales in Las Vegas, where Cirque runs seven permanent circus and musical shows in casinos.

It said that tickets are now easier to buy on mobile phones, and prices fluctuate with demand.

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“Cirque also has adopted more aggressive social media and corporate sales strategies. All this has helped revenue per available seat rise 20 percent this year,” it said.

Animal free shows

Cirque du Soleil has never used animals in its shows, preferring to let their performers’ talents shine.

“We do not agree with the way they are trained and I’m not sure the place of an elephant or a tiger is to stand in a cage half of its life and perform all around the world. We will never have animals in our shows,” said Pierre Parisien, creative director of Saltimbanco, a Cirque show.

According to One Green Planet, a platform tackling green living topics, many circuses have taken a strong stance against using animals in their shows, guaranteeing all the splendor and excitement, but without the cruelty.

 

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Dana Halawi
By Dana Halawi
Senior Journalist
Dana Halawi has over seven years of experience in Journalism with articles published in multiple magazines and a newspaper in Lebanon. She specialized in Banking and Finance at the Lebanese American University and has a Master’s degree in International Affairs.



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