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Broadway will remain dark until 2021; Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy

"The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bonding into a single audience will be possible again when Broadway theaters can safely host full houses," said one Broadway advocate.
Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
People walk in the Theater District in Manhattan as theaters remain shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City on May 13.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images file

Cirque du Soleil, best known for its mesmerizing shows that fuse acrobatics with performance art, filed for bankruptcy Monday as the coronavirus continues to ravage the entertainment and theater industries.

"For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organization," Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, said in a news release. "However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to COVID-19, management had to act decisively to protect the Company's future."

Cirque du Soleil, established in Canada, is seeking Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the United States to facilitate a "stalking horse" purchase agreement negotiated with its existing shareholders in an attempt to draw in more investment.

The company will also create a $15 million employee fund to provide financial assistance for the almost 3,500 employees who have been laid off.

Like live production companies across the country, Cirque du Soleil's revenue flow ground to a halt as states issued stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The company suspended many of its worldwide shows in March before announcing the temporary suspension of its resident shows in Las Vegas.

Cirque du Soleil's bankruptcy announcement comes on the heels of New York City's Broadway shutting down through January 3, 2021 as hope fades for a rapid end to the spread of the virus.

"The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal," said Thomas Schumacher, board chairman of The Broadway League, in a press release. "The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bonding into a single audience fueling each performer on stage and behind the scenes will be possible again when Broadway theaters can safely host full houses."

Broadway theaters are now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for all performances through Jan. 3, 2021. The organization said it is exploring how it can safely reopen theaters including introducing screening and testing of employees and guests, cleaning and sanitizing, markers inside theaters to promote social distancing, and backstage protocols.

The loss of economic activity with Broadway productions closed could be devastating for New York City. Broadway contributes $14.7 billion on top of ticket sales and supports 96,900 local jobs, according to 2019 statistics from The Broadway League.

Broadway attendance in the 2018-2019 season reached more than 14 million and grossed $1.83 billion, it reported.

Both Las Vegas and New York City's entertainment economies depend on travel. Roughly 16 million people traveled through Las Vegas McCarran International Airport between January and April of last year, according to airport statistics. Only about 10 million people have traveled through the airport during the same period this year. Airport international and domestic traffic in New York was down by about 40 percent in April, according to the most recent statistics.

"We are determined to bring back the people who rely on this industry for their livelihood, and to welcome back all those who love this vital part of New York City, as soon as it is safe to do so," said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League.

Broadway productions are expected to return over a series of rolling dates in early 2021. Tickets for performances for next winter and spring season are expected to go on sale in the coming weeks, according to The Broadway League.