The curtain is closing on one of the longest running forms of entertainment in American history and culture. After almost 150 years of live entertainment, the Ringling Brothers and P.T. Barnum and Bailey circus and sideshow has announced its final show.
I can’t recount how many times I’ve seen the show in my 35 years. First, I delighted in the largeness of the animals as a child with my mom. As an adult, I relished the look of sheer joy on my own sons face as we shared in the joy that is the circus.
The renowned how, originated in 1884, was purchased by Feld Entertainment from the Ringling Brothers family in 1967. You can’t blame the company, not only has it had to deal with ticket sales declining but the animal rights groups have been all over the traveling show. Last year Ringling Brothers retired the elephants from the long-running show after years of animal cruelty complaints and harassment from activist.
Statement from Feld Entertainment
Ellenton, Fla. – January 14, 2017 – Feld Entertainment Inc., parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® and the world’s largest producer of live family entertainment, announced today that the iconic 146-year-old circus would hold its final performances later this year. Ringling Bros.®’ two circus units will conclude their tours with their final shows at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., on May 7, and at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21, 2017.
The decision to end the circus tours was made as a result of high costs coupled with a decline in ticket sales, making the circus an unsustainable business for the company. Following the transition of the elephants off the circus, the company saw a decline in ticket sales greater than could have been anticipated.
“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was the original property on which we built Feld Entertainment into a global producer of live entertainment over the past 50 years,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “We are grateful to the hundreds of millions of fans who have experienced Ringling Bros. over the years. Between now and May, we will give them one last chance to experience the joy and wonder of Ringling Bros.”
“This was a difficult business decision to make, but by ending the circus tours, we will be able to concentrate on the other lines of business within the Feld Entertainment portfolio,” said Juliette Feld, Feld Entertainment’s Chief Operating Officer. “Now that we have made this decision, as a company, and as a family, we will strive to support our circus performers and crew in making the transition to new opportunities.”
The last performances for the circus are scheduled for May of this year. Between now and then, there are 30 shows scheduled. The performers just found out this weekend that the show and their jobs, are ending. Some of the employees will be given spots in one of Feld Entertainment’s other shows but the majority of Ringing Brothers 500 performers will be out of a job. Some of the performers will also lose their homes as they live on the circus trains that transport the performers around the country.