WHEN IS BIG TOO BIG?
Fans have often asked when is big to big with regards to Cirque du Soleil. When
will it happen that Cirque du Soleil unhappily realizes, as it explodes to 22 shows
across the globe (including an octet on the Strip), a 3D movie in production and
contributions to the Super Bowl and the Oscars in a single month, that it has
sacrificed its edge? Daniel Lamarre hopes never to find out. “We don’t want to be
big. Being bigger is not an objective for us. Being better is an objective for us.
We don’t like to be called ‘big,’ we don’t like to be called ‘multinational’ because
we don’t feel that way. You have no idea how much we are investing in research and
development,” Lamarre says. “I don’t want to wake up one day and hear someone say,
‘Cirque was great in the ’90s and the early 2000s, but now there is this other company
doing better.’ The only way to protect ourselves from that is to do what we are doing
— to invest in R&D.” The company spends more than $10 million a year on research and
Too big or not, the company did have a difficult year. Daniel Lamarre admitted as
much sitting with Pat Donnelly of the Montreal Gazette. “[We had two shows in Japan,
ZED (at Tokyo Disney), that we had to
shut down because of the economy, and Kooza,
that had to rest for a month. That was probably the toughest and the most unexpected
blow that we had to face. Right now, we are looking to this new show
(Amaluna) and to our organization to
consolidate the position we are in.” He goes on to say that ticket sales for
Amaluna have been brisk, and has
cited the aggressive push into new markets. "In the last five years, we've opened
another 250 new cities — that's because of our arena shows. For big-top shows, we have
to be in a city for at least four weeks; we have to sell about 100,000 tickets. But
with an arena show, you can be there for a night or two, sell 30,000 tickets and we're
happy. In the U.S., there were about 50 cities we have never been to before we started
the arena shows."
Alas, it was the lack of ticket sales that doomed two other shows this year:
ZAIA (on Feb 7th) and
IRIS (on November 30th, with final shows
in January 2013). ZAIA had been on pins
and needles for most of its run, but IRIS?
Why did it fail? Despite phenomenal reviews and enthusiastic audience response, demand
for IRIS had not met projections. Shortly
after the IRIS [closing] announcement,
it was revealed in the francophone media that there had been 30 layoffs at Cirque
headquarters, including three vice-presidents. In La Presse,
IRIS losses were estimated at $20 million
(plus an initial investment of $45 million, for a total of $65 million). Gilles Ste-Croix
had said seasonal layoffs happen every year at Cirque, where many people work on
contract, but he didn't deny that the company was going through a period of
adjustment. He also admitted to being worried about market saturation. What the
Cirque is doing now, he said, is slowing down its pace. "It's a timing situation,
where the market is low right now," he said. "So there is less demand. And we have
developed a lot. We are covering lots of markets." It's the new ones, in South America
and Asia, that are offering hope, he added.
Head of Cirque public relations, Renée-Claude Ménard, said: "We are basically
adjusting our operation to reflect our new reality of 2012. Our growth was very rapid
in the last five years and production schedules and operations adjusted to that pace.
We have now achieved a more normal production pace. So we are reviewing all of our
operations over the next months to reflect this new reality."
NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM
But 2012 wasn't all doom and gloom, even if we did have to say goodbye to
Saltimbanco by year's end.
Besides launching yet another successful touring show (the aforementioned
Amaluna), Cirque du Soleil
partnered with Google for the Chrome Experiment known as
Movi.Kanti.Revo, went behind the lens
with movie director James Cameron to produce
Worlds Away 3D, added a couple of
elements from ZED into
Mystère, collaborated with pop
star Madonna providing artistic direction services for her performance at the Super
Bowl XLVI halftime show, moved ZARKANA
to Las Vegas, created a new joint venture with Bell Media to develop media
content for television, film, digital, and gaming platforms (Cirque du Soleil Média),
invested in marketing firm Sid Lee, launched the first installment of
the KAmic Book at the San Diego
Comic Con, helped Astana celebrate it's 14th Anniversary as "The City of the Future"
with an hour-long event, had the cast of OVO perform at the prestigious Helpmann
Awards in Sydney (the first act of Cirque du Soleil's ever presented at the famous
Sydney Opera House), declared Harrods sale officially open with a brief performance,
and performed at the 84th Academy
Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California.
The Special Events team were also present at C2 Montréal, an immersive three-day
event of world-renowned speakers, interactive exhibits, and collaborative workshops,
and found time to be inspired by the all-new Infiniti JX, incorporating the all-new,
7-passenger luxury crossover into an 11 minute performance, complete with 9 performers
- all streamed live from Cirque's HQ. Mario D’Amico, SVP, Cirque du Soleil Corporate
Marketing and Wendy Durward, Director, Infiniti Canada held an interactive Q&A
And last, but certainly not least, is Guy Laliberté being inducted into the Gaming
Hall of Fame. The Gaming Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to recognize individuals
who have played a significant role in the gaming-entertainment industry. Induction is
the highest honor accorded by the gaming-entertainment industry. Each year,
individuals who have distinguished themselves through significant contributions to
the industry receive this distinction. More than 70 people have been inducted into the
Gaming Hall of Fame since its inception. Members include Frank Sinatra (1997), Wayne
Newton (2000) and Harry Reid (2001). Recent inductees include Steve Wynn (2006),
Don King (2008) and Tim Parrott (2010). Guy punctuated his induction by thanking his
team for helping "grow this flower in the desert."
In the beginning, though, it looked bleak, he said, when a "Mystere" aerialist fell
on top of a patron. Nineteen years after that mishap at "Mystere", Cirque shows
continue to bloom, accounting for an average of 9,000 tickets a night in Las Vegas.
Laliberte was among four inductees in the American Gaming Association's class of 2012
at Bellagio, a night that included an abbreviated "O" performance.
PLENTY TO LOOK FORWARD TO...
Though Cirque has hit a rough patch, there's still plenty to look forward to in
2013, such as: Such as: Dralion,
which has been traveling throughout North America since its conversion to the Arena
format in 2010, will begin touring the world in 2013, visiting the United Arab Emerates,
South Africa, and Venezuela before embarking on a European Arena tour.
KOOZA, which recently wrapped up an
impromptu 1-year second North American Tour (following a very successful Japanese Tour),
will begin its first European Tour in January. Kooza,
under the big top, joins Alegría and
Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour
in Arenas (though there are rumblings that THE IMMORTAL will visit Australia and Japan
in the next couple of years before returning to North America). By mid-year
Quidam will hop the pond and embark on
its own tour of European Arenas, while TOTEM
and AMALUNA remain in North America and Corteo begins touring
South America. And what of Varekai and
OVO? They'll be around... but look for
Varekai to convert to arena format