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Cirque du Soleil announces return to the stage

Cirque do Soleil Entertainment Group has announced the reopening of four of its most popular shows, which have been closed for more than a year due to restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic.

Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, the world’s largest producer of circus and other touring entertainment events, was one of the first casualties of the coronavirus, filing for bankruptcy last June after having already laid off thousands of staff. It emerged from bankruptcy protection in November after striking an agreement with creditors.

Two resident shows, O at the Bellagio and Mystère at Treasure Island, will reopen in Las Vegas this summer (1 July and 28 June, respectively), with the affiliated Blue Man Group show also returning to the Luxor Hotel from 24 June. Tickets for all Las Vegas shows are on sale now.

“I just can’t wait to see the lights go back on”

Two Cirque-produced touring events will also reopen: Kooza will return to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from November, with Luzia opening at the Royal Albert Hall in London in January 2022.

Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, says: “This is the moment we have all been waiting for. Almost 400 days have passed since we had to take a temporary hiatus, and we have been anxiously awaiting our return to the stage.

“I am so proud of the resilience of our artists and employees who persevered during the most challenging times with stages dark around the world for so long. I just can’t wait to see the lights go back on.”

“This is only the beginning,” he adds. “We look forward to sharing more exciting news in the coming weeks.”

 


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Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy protection

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of contemporary circus and other touring entertainment shows, has filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada after more than three months of “zero revenues” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil announced yesterday (29 June) it has applied to restructure its business under Canada’s CCCA (Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act – a process that shields it from creditors, similar to administration in the UK or chapter-11 bankruptcy in the US). Its application will heard today by the Superior Court of Quebec.

The announcement follows a particularly torrid quarter for Cirque, which announced thousands of temporary lay-offs in the early days of the pandemic.

Cirque says it has entered into a court-supervised purchase agreement with shareholders, including Texas-based TPG Capital and China’s Fosun Capital Group, to establish two funds, worth US$20 million, to provide relief to laid-off employees and contractors. (Some 3,480 of the more than 4,500 employees furloughed in March are expected to lose their jobs permanently.)

The ‘sponsors’, which also include state-owned investment company Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund (CDPQ), will additionally inject $300m worth of liquidity in order to restart the restructured business.

“I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together once again”

“For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organisation. However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to Covid-19, management had to act decisively to protect the company’s future,” comments Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

Subject to the Superior Court’s approval, the sponsors will also serve as the “stalking horse”, or reserve bidders, in a sale and investment solicitation process (‘SISP’) of Cirque’s assets.

“The purchase agreement and SISP provide a path for Cirque to emerge from CCAA protection as a stronger company. The robust commitment from the sponsors – which includes additional funds to support our impacted employees, contractors and critical partners, all of whom are important to Cirque’s return – reflects our mutual belief in the power and long-term potential of our brand,” continues Lamarre.

“I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together to once again create the magical spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil for our millions of fans worldwide.”

 


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A new dawn of digital: Behind livestreaming’s “massive explosion”

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, livestreaming is being used by organisers and artists alike in ever more diverse, versatile and creative ways, as virtual events and interactions help to keep brands alive, fans engaged and revenue flowing.

The One World: Together at Home took place over the weekend, becoming one of the biggest livestreamed music events in history. The mammoth livestreamed benefit concert, co-curated by Lady Gaga and organised by the World Health Organisation and Global Citizen, raised almost $128 million for vaccine development and local and regional charities.

The event has been compared by some to an online Live Aid – although organisers state One World is not a traditional fundraiser, with the majority of money raised by corporate partners and philanthropists, rather than by individuals.

The event featured the likes of Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Chris Martin, Rita Ora, Usher, Elton John and Paul McCartney, in celebration of frontline health workers and in support of the WHO’s Covid-19 solidarity fund.

The concert was split into two parts, with a six-hour “pre-show” streamed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube; followed by the main two-hour broadcast, which was shown simultaneously by all three of the main US TV networks. The event also appeared on the UK’s BBC on Sunday evening (19 April), as well as on streaming services including Alibaba, Amazon Prime Video, Apple, LiveXLive, Tencent, Tidal, Twitch and YouTube, as well as airing inside virtual multiplayer game Roblox.

Elsewhere, livestreaming has been used to raise funds for those within the live events industry, such as those put on by Beatport, Bandsintown, TicketCo, or as a goodwill gesture to fans missing out on a shutdown festival, as in the case of DGTL Amsterdam, Lollapalooza Chile and Estéreo Picnic in Colombia, among others.

“I think people aren’t so bullish at the moment, and are trying to help each other out”

The breadth of opportunities in livestreaming is huge, with some monetising via an informal virtual busking, or tip jar model, through charitable donations, or via a ticketed, pay-per-view or subscription model.

For Cirque du Soleil, livestreaming is simply acting as a way to give viewers an escape from life under quarantine. The company’s new CirqueConnect content hub premieres a 60-minute special featuring highlights from live shows each week, before adding the content to an archive together with virtual reality experiences, tutorials and music videos.

“Digital is not the same as live, but it is the best we can do now,”  Sheila Morin, Cirque du Soleil’s chief marketing and experience officer tells IQ. “The goal is to make it easy for fans to find entertaining content. We are not making money from this.”

The first 60-minute special attracted 8 million viewers on Friday 27 March, with the content hub overall attracting 32m users so far. “We have a lot of ideas about what we could do with this in the future,” adds Morin.

Another live music company delving into the online space is management firm 11E1even Group, which has set up the ongoing virtual festival Live From Out There. The idea for the festival, the group’s owner Ben Baruch tells IQ, originated when clients starting to have tours cancelled.

“We immediately entered into the mode of how to keep money flowing to artists and crew with new streams of revenue ,” says Baruch, “and thought of livestreaming but with the mentality of booking and marketing it like a traditional festival.”

“We are doing this to make sure that artists and crew are paid for their performances to help them survive during these crazy times”

The team approached the festival in the same way as they would for booking a live show, says Baruch, putting together a virtual festival line-up and bringing in Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which provides financial assistance to industry workers and artists, as a charitable partner.

Artists upload 45 to 60 minutes of unique never before seen live footage which the Live From Out There team prices accordingly. The virtual event has raised over $250,000 so far, with fans paying for $50 six-week subscriptions, $20 weekend passes or paying per view, with single shows starting from $5. Of the revenue generated, 70% goes directly to the artists.

“We are doing this to make sure that artists and crew are paid for their performances to help them survive during these crazy times. I very much support many of the other models where all money goes to charity and artists involved don’t get paid, but for us, we are doing that through Sweet Relief, plus making sure the artists involved in our programming get paid.”

For the first week of programming, says Baruch, no major recording artists performed at the festival, meaning licensing has not been an issue. “I also think people aren’t so bullish at the moment, and are trying to help each other out,” says Baruch, adding that, “we will continue to go grow and diversify our platform and did so last week for the Bill Withers Tribute which had artists such as Finneas, Stephen Marley, Craig Robinson, Allen Stone and many more major artists.”

“We have no intention of stopping at this point and are already working on phase two of the platform and see everything that we are working on now still being relevant once we return to some sort of normal,” adds Baruch.

A mainstay in the livestreaming game, self-serve platform Stageit has been hosting concerts online since 2011, but has seen a “gigantic uptake” since the coronavirus outbreak.

“As people start to miss live shows more and more, we will see an increasing number turning online for their live music fix”

“There has been a massive explosion on the site,” says Stageit’s production and artist relations manager Nick Cox. “We are now having more big shows in a day than we have had in a month typically.”

Stageit is licensed by US performance rights organisations (PROs) Ascap and BMI and, as no content is archived on the site, there is no need to pay for any recorded rights, says Cox. Artists that have performed on the site include Jon Bon Jovi, Korn, Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, Rick Springfield and Bret Michaels, with a new influx of artists that have had upcoming tour dates cancelled now coming to the site.

Cox believes that the self-serving, “democratised” nature of the platform, and the absence of a middle man needed to access it, is liberating for many artists. If people want to play to ten fans and make money from that, we don’t want to take that experience away from them, he says.

In terms of the future of livestreaming, Cox states that “more people are going to be willing to pay for [livestreamed content] now”.

“It will never be a replacement for a live ticketed event – they are two completely different things and we are not trying to compete with this, but as people start to miss live shows more and more, we will see an increasing number turning online for their live music fix.”

Read more about the business of livestreaming here.

Moving online: The booming business of livestreaming


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Cirque du Soleil announces mass layoffs due to Covid-19

The Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has announced “significant temporary staff reductions”, set to affect 95% of its workforce, as the coronavirus pandemic causes the closure of all its shows worldwide.

Cirque du Soleil, which earlier this month partnered with live entertainment giant AEG and venue operator ASM Global, says the short-term layoff of over 4,500 employees is “a necessary measure to stabilise the company for the future”.

The group has halted all its 44 active shows as governments around the world impose limitations on public gatherings.

The company is taking steps to provide support for affected employees, including paid vacation time, insurance coverage throughout the temporary layoff period and access to the group’s employee support program.

“Unfortunately, this decision is our only option as we are forced to position ourselves to weather this storm and prepare for eventual re-openings”

A core support team will continue working to maintain basic operations, continue tour planning and ticket sales for shows later this year and in 2021. Cirque du Soleil is preparing for rehiring as soon as productions can resume.

“It is the most difficult day in Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group history. We’re deeply saddened by the dramatic measures taken today, as the temporary layoff includes many hardworking, dedicated people,” says Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

“Unfortunately, this decision is our only option as we are forced to position ourselves to weather this storm and prepare for eventual re-openings.

“As one of the most trusted brands and successful live entertainment organisations, we are confident that when the day comes when we can reopen our shows, we will be ready to welcome the millions of fans who come to our shows worldwide.”

Photo: Ivan Sarfatti Photographer

 


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AEG, ASM Global partner with Cirque du Soleil

Live entertainment powerhouse AEG and venue operator ASM Global have formed a multi-year partnership with Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

The deal brings Cirque du Soleil’s touring shows to AEG and ASM Global venues, which include the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in London and 4,350-capacity Mercedes Platz in Berlin (AEG), and ASM’s Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai (17,000-cap.), P&J Live in Aberdeen, Scotland (15,000-cap.), Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (83,500-cap.), the SSE Arena, Wembley in London (12,500-cap.) and the in-the-works Gateshead Quays in Newcastle, UK (12,500-cap.).

“Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group is truly pleased to announce this partnership that promises extensive touring possibilities across the world and more opportunities for current and future fans alike to experience Cirque du Soleil’s one-of-a-kind productions,” says Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

“We are excited to partner with Cirque du Soleil to bring the very best in live family entertainment to consumers around the world”

“AEG and ASM Global have built a strong portfolio of advanced venues that allow us to push further our artistic creativity and innovative vision to present state-of-the-art creations that have never been seen before. This partnership is part of our greater live entertainment offering.”

AEG president and CEO Dan Beckerman adds: “We are excited to partner with Cirque du Soleil to bring the very best in live family entertainment to consumers around the world. Cirque du Soleil’s iconic shows continue to be in strong demand across the globe and this partnership will bring new immersive entertainment to passionate fans of all generations.”

The result of a mega-merger between AEG’s venue management arm AEG Facilities and Onex-owned SMG, ASM Global operates over 300 facilities worldwide.

 


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LN to co-produce Cirque du Soleil Berlin residency

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has announced its first European resident show, which is to take place at the Potsdamer Platz theatre in Berlin in a co-production with Live Nation.

The new production will make its debut in the winter of 2020, with an expected annual attendance of approximately 400,000.

Cirque du Soleil is responsible for the artistic content of the new show, which is inspired by the German capital. Live Nation, the operator of the 1,800-seat Theater am Potsdamer Platz, will co-produce the show.

“We are excited about this world premiere as we all share the same fantastic vision of inspiring audiences with outstanding events”

“This is a beautiful way of celebrating [our] 25-year relationship with the city,” comments Cirque de Soleil Entertainment president and CEO, Daniel Lamarre. “This new and exciting production is most certainly the best way to highlight the privileged bond we have with Berlin.”

“We are excited about this world premiere as we all share the same fantastic vision of inspiring audiences with outstanding events,” says Marek Lieberberg, CEO of Live Nation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“That’s exactly what the new original Cirque du Soleil show at Theater am Potsdamer Platz will achieve. My special gratitude to our partners for the trust they have placed in us.”

Tickets for Cirque du Soleil’s Berlin residency go on sale at the end of November 2019. More information can be found here.

 


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Cirque du Soleil Entertainment expands family offering

In a bid to further expand its audience base to even the youngest of viewers, global entertainment group Cirque du Soleil Entertainment has acquired VStar Entertainment Group, best known for its popular children- and family-oriented shows. The deal, announced last Thursday (5 July), will see the Minnesota-based company, as well as their Florida-based circus arts subsidiary Cirque Dreams, added to Cirque du Soleil’s growing portfolio.

VStar Entertainment Group has operated for close to four decades, with over 39,000 performances in more than 40 countries to its name. It has largely made its name through its family-oriented productions, showcasing popular children’s brands from Nickelodeon and Spin Master with huge success over the years. Of its most popular shows, PAW Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue stands a clear winner. In 2017 alone, the show toured 250 cities in 18 countries, grossing an average of $394,877.

The move is hoped to be mutually beneficial for all those involved. President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment, Daniel Lamarre, comments: “VStar Entertainment Group has a proven track record and recognised expertise in small theatrical production, which complements Cirque du Soleil’s expertise in large-scale production and global touring.

“We continue to look for ways to expand and diversify our portfolio with new forms of entertainment and new brands”

“We firmly believe the knowledge transfer will help us develop our own capabilities in this type of entertainment and therefore, contribute to growing our footprint in the live entertainment production industry.”

This knowledge transfer will also be welcomed by Cirque Dreams, VStar’s subsidiary circus arts division. Founded by Broadway director Neil Goldberg, Cirque Dreams produces and operates tours and shows in theatres and tourist venues. On the acquisition, Goldberg says: “I have always admired the creative forces behind Cirque du Soleil and could not wish for a better partner to continue developing Cirque Dreams.”

Speaking further about this new direction for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment, Lamarre explained that whilst circus arts will always remain at the heart of the outfit, expanding into new horizons is a crucial part of the company’s future. He says: “We continue to look for ways to expand and diversify our portfolio with new forms of entertainment and new brands, reaching new audiences and expanding our own creative and production capabilities.”

 


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Ingresso acquired by Accesso

Leading entertainment ticket distributor Ingresso, formed in 2011 by See Tickets founder Nick Blackburn and ex-Seatem Group CEO Paul Burns, has been acquired by Accesso, a developer of queueing and ticketing solutions for live events, theme parks, zoos and other attractions.

According to the directors of Berkshire-based Accesso (formerly Lo-Q), the acquisition will provide Ingresso with a “significantly larger global distribution channel through which existing Accesso customers can seek to see their event and attraction tickets”.

Ingresso merged with BCD Entertainment in November 2013, with BCD’s Bart van Schriek becoming CEO.

The company counts among its clients Cirque du Soleil, Time Out Group’s YPlan and Amazon Tickets – although, as IQ revealed last week, Amazon is believed to be moving over its ticket inventory from Ingresso to Outbox, the technology used by AEG’s AXS.

Tom Burnet, executive chairman of Accesso, comments: “Our guiding purpose at Accesso is to help our clients drive revenue and improve their guest experience. It has been that way from our very first day as a company, and today’s acquisition of Ingresso deepens that commitment further still.

“We will open up our customers’ venues to a significantly larger pool of potential visitors while also creating new opportunities for growth”

“The ticket and the experience surrounding its purchase are absolutely central to our customers’ operations and our potential for growth. For many of our customers, access to third-party distribution channels for ticket sales is an important revenue stream.

“In acquiring Ingresso, we will help connect venues with their visitors via third-party distribution outlets in a technologically and financially efficient service-minded manner. We will open up our customers’ venues to a significantly larger pool of potential visitors while also creating new opportunities for growth through combining our platforms, leveraging our scale and deepening our relationships in the industry.”

“Along with the entire Ingresso team, I am thrilled to be joining Accesso,” adds van Schriek (pictured). “The cultures and values of our two companies are very similar: both innovative, both passionate about the customers we serve and both absolutely convinced of the potential our technologies have to create a new wave of value at all levels of the entertainment industry.

“I look forward to working with our new colleagues as we roll up our sleeves and take on the significant opportunity ahead of us.”

 


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