After 146 years, the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus is to close
The self-styled greatest show on earth has been hit by the enforced loss of its elephants and declining ticket sales
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey said closing the circus had been a ‘difficult decision’. Photograph: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
The Guardian Reuters 15 January 2017
The American circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, has said it will cease performances after 146 years because of declining tickets sales and high operating costs.
“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the circus producer, said on the circus’ web site.
In May last year, the circus retired its elephant act, years after legal action by activists. It admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to a six-figure fine several years before ending the elephant performances.
When Ringling retires its elephants, this is where they live. 5 min.
In his statement on Saturday, Feld noted that declining sales had fallen off even more dramatically following what he called “the transition of the elephants off the road”.
Animal rights group Peta said it the decision heralded “the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times”.
Peta president Ingrid Newkirk also said in its statement that 36 years of protests had “awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity.“
Activists often appeared outside venues with fliers, protesting against the use of elephants, and pictures of animals they said were abused.
After Feld Entertainment sued, claiming malicious prosecution, more than a dozen animal welfare groups agreed in 2012 and 2014 to pay settlements totalling about $25m to end 14 years of litigation.
The circus went by the slogan “The greatest show on earth”, a catchphrase that was so ubiquitous it was employed for the title of the 1952 Cecil B DeMille best picture Oscar-winning film starring Charlton Heston and Betty Hutton.
The circus will end it long run with performances in Providence on 7 May and in Uniondale, New York, on 21 May. Other Feld productions, including Marvel Universe LIVE!, Monster Jam, Monster Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On Ice and Disney Live!, will continue, and the company said it will continue to develop new shows.
Employees were told of the decision to close down following performances on Saturday in Florida.