Three months ago, Cirque du Soleil was considered one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world. From its origins in 1984 as a Quebec street troupe, the French-Canadian circus had grown into a global brand.
Its long-standing multimillion-dollar circus productions in Las Vegas, as well as multiple international touring productions and a regular January residency at London’s Royal Albert Hall since 1996, had made it the world leader in contemporary circus. Could the company really now be at risk of becoming one of the most high-profile entertainment industry casualties of the coronavirus crisis?
Had only one region been affected, then Cirque may have been able to come through relatively unscathed, but to have every show suspend performances all at once makes this a unique and devastating situation.
On March 26, Reuters reported that Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group was exploring options that included a potential bankruptcy filing. Its chief executive Daniel Lamarre said the report was “overstated” and that it had rich backers in the form of private equity company TPG Capital and a major Canadian manager of pension funds. But it also has a lot of debt.
Going forward, every industry will recognise how fragile it is to a pandemic or another global disaster, and crucially that no organisation – however successful – is immune from it. Whatever happens beyond coronavirus, we will almost certainly see arts and entertainment companies reducing their level of risk. Cirque’s travails are a warning that in the current situation no entertainment company is too big to fail…
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