A promotional photo of the Wheel of Death in Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA show.
It’s official: Broadway theatres are closed through the new year. The Great White Way will continue to be the Great Dark Way for at least six months, with producers bowing to the ongoing pandemic and refunding tickets for shows through January 3. It’s a bellwether announcement that is sure to send shockwaves through the nation’s live entertainment scene, which often takes its cues from goings-on in New York City.
Broadway theatres are not the only ones turning out the lights today: Cirque du Soleil filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection today. The Montreal, Canada-based live entertainment juggernaut, which operates multiple permanent shows in Las Vegas as well as multiple touring shows and international installations, previously issued temporary layoffs to 95% of its roughly 4600 employees in March. Today’s news included permanent layoff notices to 3,500 employees – some three quarters of its pre-COVID payroll.
Cirque du Soleil’s bankruptcy filing in June follows a pledge last month of $200 million (Canadian) in loans from the Province of Quebec. However, the company has struggled financially for the past decade: it expanded greatly during the Great Recession, launching numerous touring shows and investing in permanent shows across the world. The company has also engaged in several expensive buyouts in recent years, including the Blue Man Group for a reported $65.5 million, and the Los Angeles-based production company The Works Entertainment for $40 million. Extensive borrowing and underperforming shows left the company financially overextended on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of Cirque du Soleil’s 2018 acquisitions hits close to home in Minnesota: the Fridley-based touring entertainment company VStar Entertainment Group. VStar shows include Trolls Live!, PAW Patrol Live!, and Nick Jr. Live! VStar temporarily furloughed 108 employees in March, which was expanded and made permanent by 139 layoffs announced today.
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