After 146 years, “The Greatest Show on Earth” is closing for good.
Declining attendance, high operating costs, changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal-rights groups all contributed to the demise of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing executives of Feld Entertainment, which has owned and operated the long-running circus over the past 50 years.
The company broke the sad news to circus employees on Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami. It will have 30 more shows across the United States until May.
The circus has been a staple of entertainment in the US since the mid-1800s, the Journal said.
Phineas Taylor Barnum once had a traveling show of exotic animals and human oddities, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits.
Their merger marked the birth of the modern circus, which became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in America in the early part of the 20th century.
However, as technology advanced, movies, television, videogames and the internet began competing for the attention and loyalty of children, the circus’s main clients.
“The competitor in many ways is time,” the newspaper quoted chairman and chief executive Kenneth Feld as saying.
Feld noted that the entire circus had to be transported by rail and the company had to provide a traveling school for the performers’ children.
“It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”
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