Blue Man Group May Leave Orlando for Good — Has Universal Outgrown Them?
The pandemic has caused a lot of people to move out of the Orlando area, but three very recognizable men may now be joining that list. After a 13-year run in the City Beautiful, the Blue Man Group is rumored to be moving on.
Industry analyst and writer Josh Young, known for his reliable insider reporting regarding NBCUniversal’s resorts, reports on his Theme Park University site that the Orlando show is “extremely unlikely” to be returning. The show closed early last year as a pandemic precaution. When Universal Orlando reopened a few months later, the CityWalk show remained dark. This didn’t come as much of a surprise as Blue Man Group’s parent company, Cirque du Soleil, has been struggling since early last year.
After years of declining sales and mounting debts, Cirque du Soleil was forced to declare bankruptcy over the summer, laying off 95 percent of its workforce. In 2019, the company had more than a billion dollars in revenue; by the time the company filed for bankruptcy, it was reported to have around that same amount in debt. By November, the company emerged from creditor protection with two new board members, new owners and a restructuring plan. Two shows have reopened in China and Mexico, but in the U.S. and Canada, the company is in a waiting pattern as it waits for the pandemic to subside.
Launched in Montreal in 1984, the small startup saw positive reception wherever they performed, though financial concerns held them back. Conflicts between leadership also slowed down any plans for further growth. By the early 1990s, the company had begun touring the United States, finding success with a short residency in Las Vegas. This led to its first permanent show, debuting at the brand-new Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in late 1993. By the time it opened, there were already talks underway to open a second permanent show, this one at Walt Disney World.
Treasure Island was an early participant in the “Disneyfication” of Vegas. The idea was to diversify the guest demographics, which had relied heavily on adults without kids. In Florida, Disney was using this exact same business plan.
By the late 1980s, the Vacation Kingdom had become the global leader in family vacations, but Disney C.E.O. Michael Eisner wanted to expand its client base and make it more than a place with hotels and theme parks. Pleasure Island had opened in 1989, being the first major area of Walt Disney World off-limits to children. The nightclub district was soon followed by multiple convention centers, a wedding chapel, a massive sports complex, and a second entertainment district with its own nighttime entertainment.
Next to Pleasure Island, Disney sought to augment its dining options with celebrity chefs and entertainment like that of Vegas. The Downtown Disney West Side opening in 1997 with the long-anticipated Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba, debuting the next year. The Disney Decade was a success, with every new opening seeing ever-larger crowds.
Up the street at Universal, things couldn’t be more different. Islands of Adventure opened in 1998, with CityWalk coming online a year later. Despite its own adult-focused complex and an impressive new theme park, the billion-dollar gamble known as Universal Studios Escape wasn’t seeing the massive crowds that had been predicted.
The resort saw another major hit when in 2005, Nickelodeon closed its kid-friendly studios at Universal Studios Florida. The empty studios allowed Universal to bring in its answer to Cirque du Soleil…
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