Cirque du Soleil launches post-COVID comeback in Las Vegas

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Cirque du Soleil announced on Wednesday that it will relaunch its two longest-running live shows in Las Vegas, “Mystery” and “O,” in time for the weekend of July 4, marking the company’s return to its market. the largest and most lucrative and its first to return to the global stage since the COVID-19 pandemic struck over a year ago.

“I think our openness becomes the symbol of the return of entertainment,” said Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre. “We are closely linked. We are Vegas and Vegas is Cirque du Soleil.

“Mystery,” the Cirque’s longest-running show in Las Vegas, will resume performances at Treasure Island on June 28, and “O” will return to the Bellagio on July 1. The Blue Man Group, acquired by Cirque in 2017, is expected to return to Luxor on June 24.

The Cirque’s move follows an announcement by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak that entertainment venues will be allowed to open at 100% capacity by June 1. As of May 1, counties will assume the authority to oversee coronavirus mitigation measures, and on Tuesday, Clark County (of which Vegas is a part) approved plans to operate at 80% capacity with three feet of social distance. Once 60% of eligible residents aged 16 and over have been vaccinated, events can proceed without social distancing, provided the rate of positive coronavirus tests remains below 5%. Mask requirements will remain in place.

Lamarre said Cirque shows would respect state mandates but aim to operate at full capacity, without social distancing. Cirque shows only need 40% capacity to break even, Lamarre said, but they are aiming for 100%. “O” has an audience capacity of 1,800 seats and “Mystère” 1,616 seats. Blue Man Group can accommodate 830 people.

The three other Cirque shows in Vegas – “The Beatles Love,” “Michael Jackson One” and “Kà” – will open later this year, depending on how ticket sales go for the first two shows. . Each production requires about two months of rehearsal, Lamarre said, with the casts of “Mystère” and “O” expected to return as early as Monday.

The Circus announced in November that it was shutting down its sixth Las Vegas show, adult-themed “Zumanity,” for good, after a 17-year run at the New York New York Hotel & Casino. The last performance on this show was on March 14, 2020, a day before the Cirque shows around the world closed due to the pandemic.

Cirque’s “O” is one of two shows that will anchor the company’s reboot in Las Vegas.

(Cirque du Soleil)

The reopening of “O” and “Mystère” will also mark the return of Cirque du Soleil to Las Vegas under a new owner. The Montreal-based company filed for bankruptcy protection in June last year and laid off about 95% of its workforce, or about 3,500 employees worldwide. She emerged from bankruptcy protection in November with new owners led by Catalyst Capital Group, a Canadian private equity firm. One of the two new Cirque board members is a former executive at MGM Resorts, where four of the remaining five Cirque shows are hosted. (Bellagio is owned by the Blackstone Group but is operated by MGM.) The Circus has received an infusion of $ 375 million to help revive the business.

About 300 members of the cast and crew will return to work on the Vegas Strip when all three shows resume rehearsals, Lamarre said.

“The good news is that all of our cast and crew in Las Vegas live there, so it was easier to keep them and keep in touch with them,” he said, adding that Circus had their insurance covered. medical and workers’ compensation during the shutdown.

Since the Circus opened “Mystery” in 1993 with its combination of acrobatics, contortionists, trapeze artists and clowns, the company has been recognized for upping the quality of entertainment in Las Vegas and helping to redefine the gaming mecca. as a family vacation center.

The actors practice stunts on a blue exercise mat.

The cast members practice fighting stunts on a 2019 behind-the-scenes press day for “RUN,” a Cirque du Soleil show described as a graphic novel coming to life. The show, intended to appeal to a younger audience, ended after just five months.

(David Himbert / For The Times)

Not all of his Vegas shows have been so successful. Circus’ Elvis Presley-themed show, “Viva Elvis,” closed in 2012 after a 2.5-year run at Aria Resort and Casino. And his motorcycle-action thriller “RUN,” written by Robert Rodriguez, wrapped up on March 7, 2020, after a brief five-month crash-prone race in Luxor.

The Cirque relaunch represents optimism that Las Vegas entertainment can regain its pre-pandemic glory, but challenges remain. The number of visitors to the city fell by about 54% in February compared to a year earlier, according to the latest figures of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Hotel occupancy rates decreased by around 45% during this period and the number of airport passengers decreased by around 58% compared to the same period in 2020.

The numbers are starting to climb as more people are vaccinated and the state opens up more fully. George Kliavkoff, president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts International, said MGM hotels operate at around 90% occupancy on weekends and less on weekdays.

Food and drink concessions will be offered to the Cirque du Soleil audience. Kliavkoff said no adjustments were needed in theaters due to advanced ventilation systems already in place at casinos, but other security measures, such as paperless ticketing and tightened cleaning protocols, will be added.

Southern California is Las Vegas’ biggest food market and therefore the biggest ticket buyer for most Vegas shows, Kliavkoff said. “This has been especially the case over the past two months as more people have chosen to drive and people have had fewer options for entertainment in Southern California. They chose to come to Vegas to celebrate their new found freedom.

Due to social distancing regulations, MGM has eight shows open at 50% capacity, including shows by David Copperfield and Jabbawockeez at MGM Grand, Carrot Top in Luxor, and Thunder From Down Under at Excalibur. Circus shows will be by far the biggest productions to reappear on the Strip.

“MGM Resorts is one of the world’s leading live entertainment companies. In 2019, we did 9,000 shows and sold over 9 million tickets, ”Kliavkoff said. “Our main partner was Cirque du Soleil. The return of “O” on July 1 will be an indicator of the return of entertainment to Las Vegas. “

Millions of international tourists traditionally visit Las Vegas every year, but those numbers are drastically down due to the pandemic. Lamarre said he expected the majority of ticket buyers to be domestic travelers initially.

“If you are an American citizen you don’t have a lot of places to travel around the world, so if you want to have fun after a year of imprisonment the place to go is in Las Vegas”, a- he declared. “My conviction, in the short term [is], at least for a year, you will have more US citizens in Vegas than international customers.

A man on a unicycle holds an artist above his head with an arm.

Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta” performed at Dodger Stadium in January 2020 and, before the pandemic struck, it was slated to open in Orange County.

(Matt Beard)

The return of touring shows remains complicated as the COVID-19 situation varies from state to state in the United States and from country to country around the world. Before the pandemic, Cirque tours reached more than 450 cities around the world each year.

“The American market is going to be more important to us, more than usual, because it becomes a much more secure market every day. I think in 2022 I wouldn’t be surprised if we had three shows touring the United States because it’s a much safer country, ”he said. “The UK looks great too, and so do others in Europe. We are monitoring every other country in the world to see what our options are. “

The Circus announced on Wednesday that “Kooza” will open in November in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and “Luzia” will return to the Royal Albert Hall in London in January.

In Asia, Lamarre said, talks have started to resume in Korea. “We could go to Korea by the end of 2022, and if so, we’ll probably follow up with Japan,” he said. “Japan has always been an amazing country for us. When we shoot in Japan, we shoot there for about 18 months.

Cirque is also working on setting a new opening date for “Drawn to Life,” its collaboration with Disney that was slated to open in Orlando, Florida last year. “It’s a tribute to Disney animation, and we felt honored to have the opportunity to do a show with the IP [intellectual property] from Disney, ”Lamarre said. “We should be able to open in the fall.”

Tickets for “O” and “Mystery” are expected to go on sale Wednesday. Blue Man Group tickets go on sale April 29. Ticket prices will remain around pre-COVID levels, Lamarre said, ranging from $ 69 to $ 125 for “Mystery” and $ 79 to $ 180 for “O”.

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