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Ice Shows

Dazzling displays of athletic skill, production, and choreography to rival lavish pop concerts, stories of romance, laughter, and fun – ice shows have been a popular feature of many venue calendars for decades.

For almost 40 years, Feld Entertainment has toured the global phenomenon of Disney on Ice to arenas. Today, nine productions reach around 80 countries in six continents.

Feld, which also produces spectacles such as Monster Jam, Marvel Universe Live! and Jurassic World Live Tour, has often been a pioneer in opening and developing markets for family entertainment. There’s a feeling that if Disney on Ice can work in a territory, other shows in this segment will work there, too.

Denis Sullivan, Feld’s vice president, international tours and a stalwart of the touring entertainment business, says: “We go into markets in a very sustainable way. We don’t do anything for a one-year hit; every market we look at we have at least a five-year view.” And some markets they’ve been in for over 35 years.

Key to this is the company’s focus on quality, says Feld’s vice president – Europe, Middle East and Africa, Steven Armstrong. “We strive to ensure that there’s the same quality, week in, week out, no matter whether you’re in Finland or Mississippi.”

Because the brand has been touring for so long, audiences are now made up of three generations of Disney on Ice fans. And that’s not the only demographic change he noticed.

“Coming out of Covid, everyone in the family wants to spend time with each other. Before the pandemic, dads weren’t as prone to coming. Now it’s about the chance to share experiences with the entire family. You can notice it as you walk around an arena.”

The longest running of them all, Holiday on Ice celebrates its 80th year in 2023.

The longest running of them all, Holiday on Ice celebrates its 80th year in 2023. Its European season runs from November to April, during which period it tours two productions: one goes to its core market of Germany, where it reaches 25 cities; the other hits the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and France.

Outside those times, they take on engagements outside Europe, such as Saudi Arabia (in 2022), Singapore, or other territories that make financial sense, says CEO Peter O’Keeffe.

While the current schedule is keeping the company busy (O’Keeffe reports 25% annual growth in the German market for the last three years), it’s also eyeing expansion into additional territories.

“From a European perspective, Poland and Italy are a fit, as is the Czech Republic. But in some countries, you’re only talking about one-city tours. We prefer to play five, six cities because then you’ve got a larger marketing spend and reach. So, we tend to look to the larger markets because you get more for your investment.

Outside of Europe, Asia and the Middle East is somewhere you want to be, in terms of spend, reach, demographics, suitability of the product. South Korea and Japan are where you really want to be from that perspective. A show like ours, the goal has to be 20,000 visitors a week. Otherwise, there’s no point; it’s not going to work.”

He adds that the UK market is also a natural fit, but venue availability and the high cost of national television advertising are challenges. “I bring people from Britain to see our shows, and they’re not quite expecting what we put on in terms of quality, production values, demographic, and scale.

They say, ‘you should bring it to the UK.’ The problem in the UK is people still think of it in terms of Strictly Ballroom or Dancing On Ice, and that’s a bit of a hurdle to overcome.”

Both Feld and Holiday on Ice work with the industry in a variety of ways, from promoting themselves to working with local promoters or doing risk/reward deals. O’Keeffe says where the company understands the market and has the necessary infrastructure to do so, it will promote the show itself.

“And where we don’t, we look for partnerships. Outside the EU, here there’s more uncertainty on the revenue side, we get into minimum guarantees, profit shares, splits, buy-outs, those kind of deals.”

O’Keeffe says where the company understands the market and has the necessary infrastructure to do so, it will promote the show itself.


Europe and the USA are major markets for Feld, where the Disney on Ice productions are familiar sights at arenas year-in, year-out. Nicolas Renna is managing partner at Proactiv Entertainment, a Spain-headquartered major promoter and producer of family entertainment, operating across Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

“We have promoted Disney on Ice in Spain for 30 years now, and it does 100,000 spectators every year. We’d love to take more cities if they were available, because Spain is very family-oriented.”

When the northern hemisphere’s live entertainment industry heads outdoors for festival season, the big touring productions head to the southern hemisphere, reaching territories such as Australia, South Africa, and Latin America.

Maria Maldonado, Feld’s vice president– Latin America & Mediterranean Europe, says: “We get the tours from May to October and normally have very efficient run through the Southern Cone: three to five cities in Brazil; Uruguay; we’ll be going to Paraguay with Disney on Ice for the first time this year; then we’ll go to Argentina, Chile, and Colombia.

Then we have another show that will go to Mexico, one that’ll go to Puerto Rico, and depending on timing, we may be able to get the Dominican Republic in. It all depends on content availability. Disney on Ice is what we’ve been able to take to most places. It is THE brand.”

“Disney on Ice is what we’ve been able to take to most places. It is THE brand

While ice may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to the weather in the Middle East, it’s a hot territory for ice shows, with Holiday on Ice in Saudi Arabia in 2022 and Disney on Ice reaching new countries as more venues come on stream in countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, alongside the more established Dubai.

Armstrong says: “The Middle East came out of Covid in a very strong position, stronger than it was going into the pandemic. They’ve been very smart with their timing on growth.

What was holding them back was the infrastructures, the venues. But over time, they’ve certainly fixed that: you’ve got incredible venues like the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi; Saudi Arabia is now investing in huge amounts of infrastructure and it’s incredible to be part of that. That’s spurred on other parts of the Middle East. We went to Arena Kuwait for the first time [in November 2022], and it’s a beautiful venue.”

Alison Goldsmith, operations director at Middle East promoter SESLive!, says: “This will be our 10th year bringing Disney on Ice to the region. We started in Qatar, and at the time, there was very little going on. We were one of the first big international events there, and it was a huge success.

But then they had a change of government, they had a change of approach, so we weren’t there for a few years, and then Covid happened. Now that it’s back, post-World Cup, they’re looking at things a bit differently, and the market’s opening up again. Dubai had been fairly consistent – its obviously been running international content for a long time.

But we had a few quiet years there where it didn’t look like much was going on, and the past two years have just blossomed. It’s been fantastic.”

“We had a few quiet years there where it didn’t look like much was going on, and the past two years have just blossomed. It’s been fantastic.”

With shows of this scale, venues are fundamental to what drives what cities they get to. As Feld’s Maldonado says: “We take Disney on Ice on tour, and that will be probably the only experience of live characters and a live show of the quality of ours.

This year, we were in tents in Colombia for the last two times, but before that, we were at the Movistar Arena in Bogotá, which is currently being remodelled. We’re also moving to Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires from Luna Park, as part of a strategic move. We’re always looking for the next infrastructure.”

But things can change very quickly. A change in infrastructure or a collapse in exchange rates can make markets unsustainable for these huge productions Feld’s Armstrong says: “We were having success in South Africa. But there can be problems, such as with sluggish transportation.

What used to take four or five weeks to get there is now taking six or seven. If we’re going to somewhere like South Africa, we need four or five events to make it worthwhile because it takes four or five weeks to get there and four or five weeks to get back. So, we need to be doing a good run when there to make it work. Recently, the Ticketpro Dome (cap. 20,000) in Johannesburg shut down [it was turned into a car dealership after owner Sasol Pension Fund sold the building to WeBuyCars] which is a devastating blow.

Our Disney on Ice-model is struggling a bit in South Africa as a result. But our Monster Jam show is in stadiums and having huge success there.”

In the past, Holiday on Ice would tour as many as five productions annually, including to Latin America. However, in recent years, that region is currently not on the company’s schedule.

“For a Latin American tour of our type of show to work, you need one of the pillars in the north or in the south,” says O’Keeffe.

“Traditionally, that’s Mexico from the north down or Argentina from the south up. However, local currencies in Argentina and Brazil collapsed to the point where, like any international touring organisation with a cost base in Euros or US dollars and revenue base in Pesos or Reals, it’s never going to add up.”

But all is not lost. O’Keeffe says Mexico “has come back on the radar quite strongly in the last couple of years,” and there’s increasing interest from Argentina and Brazil once more.

“It’s a question of getting the numbers to work. When I came on board, my brief was to get the production value back to something where we were very comfortable with it. However, the more technically sexy you make a show, the more expensive it is. So, in those markets which are more sensitive when it comes to average ticket price, you have to go for volume.

“The more technically sexy you make a show, the more expensive it is. So, in those markets which are more sensitive when it comes to average ticket price, you have to go for volume.”


Not all cities or towns can handle a production of the size of Disney on Ice, so there’s a healthy market for touring ice shows that fill smaller-capacity venues.

“We have plenty of ice shows that work well in the mid-sector,” says Austria-based agent Georg Leitner of GLP. “For example, Peter Pan On Ice and Cinderella On Ice are geared for 2,000-3,000-capacity venues.

We can go outside the big capital cities and fill a niche in those areas. The thing is, smaller cities probably can’t manage the financials for a huge show such as Disney on Ice, so our productions work really well financially and everyone loves them.”

Leitner launched its family entertainment division a few years back, and it has been seeing huge growth ever since.

“The family entertainment business saved us during the pandemic,”

“The family entertainment business saved us during the pandemic,” he says. “These shows could carry on in times when it was very difficult to tour at all. In 2020, when most people were standing still, we had Cirque de Glace, which is a combination of acrobatics and ice show – a bit like Cirque du Soleil on ice – that did three weeks in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.”

And there’s a new kid on the block. Tampere Hall in Finland is not only a renowned 800-capacity venue hosting performances by the likes of Patti Smith, as well as conferences, the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, and the world’s only Moomin Museum. It also produces its own shows.

Five years ago, the company decided to create a new ambitious touring production. The Snow Queen is a multidisciplinary retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s dark tale bringing together ice hockey players, figure skating, dance, and acrobatics (see breakout box).

The Snow Queen premiered at Nokia Arena in Tampere on 30 December 2022 and sold 34,000 tickets over three shows, while a TV screening on Finnish broadcaster Yle saw average viewing figures of 300,000. The production is getting set to tour internationally, with Angus Baskerville of Pure Represents (and formerly of 13 Artists) as the agent.

“Visually, artistically, and content-wise, The Snow Queen is one of the most ambitious projects that I have encountered in my career,” he says.

“We feel the show has huge potential in terms of international touring, particularly as the performance is built in an arena environment, and there is currently nothing like it in the market…We ́ve had extremely promising discussions with the biggest arenas in Great Britain and Europe already.”

“What we’ve managed to achieve is a completely new art form”

“What we’ve managed to achieve is a completely new art form,” says Tampere Hall CEO Paulina Ahokas. “The Snow Queen attracts audiences that arenas never ever usually see. At Nokia Arena, 81% of the people that came to see our show had never been to the arena before.

“Nobody else has done anything like this before. We’re bringing art to arenas. It features all of the ice sports, such as ice hockey, ice skating, and synchronised skating, but also contemporary dance and puppetry.”

The production has been booked for a seven-show run in Helsinki at the beginning of 2024, and there are tentative reservations for end of 2024 and early 2025 across Europe, reports Ahokas.

“Everybody wants something new. They don’t want the same old stuff, especially the cutting-edge audiences. We don’t need 100,000 people per show to make it work, we need maybe 25-30,000. It appeals to that group of people in every town who looks for something cutting-edge. Our audiences were made up of not just families but young adults and more.”

“Everybody wants something new. They don’t want the same old stuff, especially the cutting-edge audiences.”

Ice Queen

Things certainly looks positive for The Snow Queen, if demand for ice shows is anything to go by. They’re one of the longest-running forms of touring family entertainment, and appetites show no sign of diminishing. “We can’t keep up with demand at the moment,” says Feld’s Maldonado.

“What with transportation times and the growth of certain markets, we expected it, but transportation challenges coming out of Covid and the timing to get to places means we have to be cautious because we never miss an opening. The logistics machine behind everything is huge.”

O’Keeffe reports a similar situation at Holiday on Ice. “There’s a lot of demand, but everybody wants the show in the same period: Christmas. I’m not going to give up somewhere like Munich or Cologne, where I can do 50,000 or 60,000 visitors, for a new city where I can only do 10,000. That doesn’t make sense.”

“There’s a lot of demand, but everybody wants the show in the same period: Christmas.”

And he concludes: “We’ve all been through two pretty rubbish years. But it’s been incredibly reassuring to see that the market has bounced back pretty well, despite the balance between cost, revenue, ticketing prices, cost of doing business.

We’re looking forward with optimism. We’ve got a product we’re proud of, we’ve got a customer base which [sic] is very significant and growing, there are a lot of markets there that we can get back into or come into for the first time. There’s plenty to keep us busy.”

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