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Cirque Du Soleil Files for Bankruptcy Protection (wsj.com)
140 points by prostoalex 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 100 comments

The great depression in live performances is truly a global tragedy. If you think restaurants and barbershops have it bad, imagine theaters. For most of them it's basically impossible to do social distancing and remain financially solvent. People may be itching to go out to eat and get a haircut, but it will be a long time before people are going to pack in to an opera house. Couple that with the fact that audiences for ballet, opera, and orchestras skews much older I'm any case, and I fear many of these art forms will face a catastrophic blow in some cities.

That and a lot of these venues had razor thin margins during the best of times; at half capacity they can’t survive. And that’s not even including the fact that discretionary spending will remain low until people feel financially secure, which might happen long after the pandemic is solved. Those who lost out on work will have credit holes to dig back out of once this is over.

Here in LA this is killing off some standup clubs. I’ve speculated that it’ll decimate a whole generation of up and coming comics; if you’re a club that’s struggling and needs to sell half the seats at a higher price per, you’re going to reach for tried and true artists and not anyone slightly risky.

Agreed. I'm friends with many ballet dancers, and my heart breaks for them. I feel like ballet had a bit of a resurgence recently with the popularity of shows like "You think you can dance" and stars like Misty Copeland.

But now I think a generation of dancers will be lost. Dancers can't just "pause". Staying in shape without access to studios and performances is incredibly difficult. The career of a dancer is incredibly short in the best of times. I think many will start to realize the gravity of the situation and move on.

Breaking out in standup comedy is already moving to YouTube. There are a few comics who record themselves performing to a very small crowd (probably of their friends) to get that live-audience energy, but their main audience is internet viewers.

Live streaming a perfomance isn't an option? Wouldn't mind paying to live stream my favorite orchestra while stuck at home. There was a thing about spanish orchestra performing to an audience of plants and streaming it.

Loss of concessions could easily make it financially infeasible. Parking fees also lost.

I end up out of pocket easily double the ticket price when all is done.

But the real killer is everyone will want the equivalent ticket of the cheap seats. How do you stratify your prices while streaming?

I think that theaters and orchestras are often more event than content business.

While there might be a aspects of a performance that can be conveyed through a video feed a large part of the experience is probably lost by attendants not being able to participate in person.

It might be a way to supplement their income for people who wouldn't have shown up anyway, but I personally wouldn't pay for it unless I was truly stuck at home. There's nothing like being there.

Why can't they just pause and resume (and the employees get unemployment benefits)?

Financial and commercial commitments: mortgages and contracts.

Stagehand here. I still haven’t received a penny of unemployment insurance. The state is not equipped to deal with >1M people filing every week. I have friends who are mistakenly being accused of fraud and being asked to repay what they’ve received so far. UI is a nightmare right now.

Even if I could live for a year or two on 40% of my previous salary (much closer to minimum wage than it is to tech salaries), and the government approved extensions to allow UI to be paid for that long (it’s not), our employers still have other bills to pay. They need to pay rent and insurance on the theatre, and the scene shop, and the warehouse full of sets and props and costumes. Equipment needs regular maintenance and inspections. Consumables will expire. It will cost more when we start up again.

There are lots of other pieces in the live entertainment system. We can’t just go back to work if the other businesses we rely on have gone bust in the meantime. Want stagehands to work through the night? You’ll need 24/7 catering. Want stage lights? You’ll need rental companies. Want equipment to be serviced? And on and on.

Finally, I know many people are taking this opportunity to retire, or change careers. Nobody is joining the industry right now. All the classes and certifications I was scheduled for in the past 6 months have been cancelled. We’ll have a lack of skilled workers when we do get back to work.

It will take many years, after a vaccine is created, for this industry to recover.

Because fixed costs such as building rent, maintenance and such will continue. Those are substantial amounts for any venue of note.

The value of a building (or the land it sits on) in a commercial district is entirely linked to the potential for that building to make money. During lockdown there's MUCH less opportunity for that building to make money. Accordingly, rents should drop; banks should make equity release more readily available etc etc.

Rental contracts are typically five or ten year fixed. You don't get to renegotiate in the middle because circumstances change.

Not to mention tax assessments reductions will lag, especially with cities themselves being close to bankruptcy.

And no local government is giving property tax breaks.

This holiday season is going to be a real test since we won’t have a vaccine by Novemberish. No ones going to fly out to holiday hotspots, or travel for Thanksgiving.

Vaccine or bust basically.

NYC Broadway theater district just said they were going to remain closed through 2020. It's really devastating.

We will not have a vaccine this year, period.

I might be like... extra retarded for saying this but... with 153k cases in Florida and 3.5k deaths (2.3%), is it really that bad? I can only imagine how many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Florida citizens have it/have had it and had no symptoms and aren't getting tested (which would drive the death percentage down something fierce).

I feel like I have a higher chance of dying driving down the street. Am I being ignorant?

I'm not sure what retardation has anything to do with this. If you mean you might be extra ignorant, that's something else. Consider speaking more clearly and abandoning the awkward slang.

There's a common trend of mixing up the fatality percentage and the odds of dying to this. You seem to be falling into that confusion. A mortality rate of 2.3% doesnt mean you have a 2.3% chance of dying to it. If you're elderly and/or have a preexisting respiratory condition, then you have a much higher likelihood of something going very wrong. The younger and healthier you are, the lower the likelihood is that your health will be severely impacted.

That's why young healthy people such as myself (25, regular exercise, no preexisting conditions) need to be more worried about other people. It isn't about my health, it's about theirs.

> That's why young healthy people such as myself (25, regular exercise, no preexisting conditions) need to be more worried about other people. It isn't about my health, it's about theirs.

This is not a factual statement. America is skewing younger with more complications than Europe.

While it is always a good idea to think about others, the young aren't as immune to this as they think they are.

Or, as I crudely put it to one youngster: You use condoms, right? Well, Covid statistically is more dangerous and more contagious than anything a condom protects against. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance.

Your odds of dying from covid are higher. Auto deaths per passenger mile are 1-2 per 100 million miles, or about 1/20th (rough ballpark) the chance of dying from covid in the next couple years if you drive regularly and if you don’t already have health issues.

I think it’s reasonable to wonder that, though.

Not your not wrong. The statistics show that the mortality rate is low unless your 65+. It's much higher than the flu, but less than say SARS was back in 2005.

However, this isn't the real problem. Unlike most illnesses this one has a very long incubation time (like 1-2 weeks) unlike the flu where you get sick in a day or so. This means you can be walking around making people ill and spreading the disease even though you're totally fine. (Which is why walking around with out a mask isn't healthy for other people)

So the real issue isn't you getting sick and dying but the fact that you're spreading the illness to 20+ other people and making the problem so much worse. All these sick people will eventually effect you (as they already have) overwhelming health and social services.

It's not just the question of dying, although the numbers seems to be concentrating on that. Some people who don't die are sick for months. Some don't really fully recover, or have lasting effects.

It's a bit like the stats for dying driving. It doesn't include people who survive but lose their legs or can't function independently anymore. In both cases think of the affected percentage which is so much higher.

> Am I being ignorant?

Not, it's called 'optimism bias' [1]

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimism_bias

9/11 killed about 3k Americans, was it really that bad?

If you were an Iraqi, yes, it was really that bad.

For the people killed and their relatives and friends? Yes, for sure.

Considering all the suffering going on in the world? No, not at all.

There was a huge overreaction to 9/11 in the US which caused much more suffering than the event itself.

It was definitely terrible for many other countries.

The media tells us who to care about and by how much. I find the whole thing very irrational and very isolating.

I’m quasi American and I have always hated the people who worked in those towers. The primary business of financialization is to rob the masses of their wealth / pensions. They are a well dressed and well behaved parasitical class.

Osama Bin Laden’s stated intention was to drag the US in to a quagmire and the US obliged.

Despite what MMT people may believe, the US will now have to get used to being a much poorer country. That adjustment will not be easy.

It is bad once hospitals become overflown with cases. We saw it in NY, in Italy, in Spain etc. It's not the fatality rate per se the problem, it's how fast all these people will get infected.

> with 153k cases in Florida and 3.5k deaths (2.3%), is it really that bad?

You don't even know if it's 3.5K deaths _due to_ COVID in the first place. The way US counts the deaths from this is "unique" in that if someone had COVID when they died, but they did not die _from_ COVID, they're still counted as a COVID death. That's why countries like Russia with much less formidable healthcare systems have "lower" fatality ratios. They're counting those who died _because of_ COVID, not _with_ it.

Why are we counting our deaths like this? I genuinely do not have a rational explanation, assuming there is one.

And soon you won't even know if the number of cases is accurate either, since CDC has put out guidance that there is a chance of false positives in newer tests if you had common cold. Which most people have _several times a year_.


Quote: "Some tests may exhibit cross-reactivity with other coronaviruses, such as those that cause the common cold."

    The way US counts the deaths from this is "unique" 
    in that if someone had COVID when they died, but 
    they did not die _from_ COVID, they're still counted 
    as a COVID death
That's how diseases work.

In a literal sense the only actual cause of death ever is a cessation of cardiovascular function.

You don't die "from" AIDS. You die from pnuemonia, malnutrition, opportunistic infections that attack your weakened immune system, etc.

You don't even die directly "from" cancer. The tumors on your pancreas don't directly kill you in the sense that stepping on a landmine directly kills you.

    That's why countries like Russia with much less formidable 
    healthcare systems have "lower" fatality ratios. They're 
    counting those who died _because of_ COVID, not _with_ it.
That's not realistic at all.

Your odds of dying from disease during any given month are pretty low. If you get COVID-19 and die, the overwhelming probability is that.... yes, it was COVID-19.

While not a perfect method of accounting it is assuredly more accurate than assuming the opposite, which is what countries like Russia are apparently doing.

If a person has cancer (or hepatitis, or psoriasis, or dementia, or whatever) for two years, and then they contract COVID-19 and die the next week, it certainly may have been the cancer that did them in, but it was almost certainly the COVID-19 that put them over the edge. In reality, a number of factors did them in, but if you had to pick one it would be their acute bout with COVID-19 that proved the deciding factor.

> the overwhelming probability is that.... yes, it was COVID-19

Even if you had stage 4 cancer and would die in a week anyway?

Then there's the issue of excess deaths caused by _not going to the doctor_ because you can't do "elective" procedures like stents and such, or just because you're afraid of getting infected. You can die of cardiovascular (or other) disease this way, and if you had e.g. asymptomatic covid (like most people who have it) you'd be counted as a COVID death then.

    Even if you had stage 4 cancer and would die 
    in a week anyway?
Why yes, then it might be more accurate to say that your stage 4 cancer killed you.

But now, consider: most people are not in the absolutely final, terminal phase of a deadly illness.

To what percentage of dead COVID-19 sufferers would a situation like that possibly apply?

A very tiny one, surely. That is why tallying COVID-19 deaths in this manner is acceptable and accurate.

It perhaps introduces a small amount of error, but is superior to Russia's method (which sounds like outright denial of reality) and the error % introduced is in any event, is at least an order of magnitude (if not two) smaller than that posed by the number of undiagnosed COVID-19 cases.

Because for many cases it is not clear. The resources needed to understand are not there, they need to allocate them to save the living.

This situation is extremely complex and we simply don’t have the tools and resources to deal with it effectively.

As countless others have explained, this is an incredibly obtuse way of looking at it since they wouldn't have died in the nearly total majority of cases if it weren't for COVID.

This is provably the case, since the average death rate is very steady year on year, yet shot up this year. People are dying in droves from something, and if not COVID then what do you propose? Hell, in reality the US and other countries are underreporting their figures, because there's still a whole tonne of unexplained deaths above the COVID numbers and no other explanation as to why those deaths have occurred.

See the following for further explanation.

[1]: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/21/world/coronav...

[2]: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53233066

In most countries, if you die having COVID, and you cant exclude COVID as being the cause, you are included in the COVID death count. In russia, if you die having COVID, but yoy also have any other sickness that could be the cause of death, you are not included in the COVID death count.

While the former overestimates, the latter underestimates. I dont have any reference to prove it, but my gut feeling tells me that the latter is probably even further away from the true number than the former. In any case, they are absolutely not comparable.

The best statistical tool we have to figure out the real death rate due to COVID is excess mortality, and these numbers have been higher even than the seemingly overattributed numbers.

There are still a bunch of people who die and don't get attributed, and there are people who die because there's a pandemic on and they don't get healthcare as a result, either because there isn't capacity or to avoid infection.

That’s just one of the approaches, another one is counting excess deaths - delta between predicted and actual mortality rates.

It normalizes against external factors, such as poor testing infrastructure or (in some countries) government pressure to keep the numbers low.


The excess deaths have just been shifted earlier in the year, as a large part of the people that die from Coronoa would have died within a year anyway. Probably towards the end of the year the excess deaths will dip below the average.

Someone aged 80 today has another 9 years to live today, according to the actuary tables. Writing these people off as "dead anyway" is neither very nice, nor supported by the data.

Please show me where in my post where I said that. You seem to be arguing against something I didn't say.

Could it be that a good fraction of those "excess deaths" is caused by people choosing not to seek (or being unable to get) medical help with the conditions they already have? 2.65 million people die in the US in an average year in total, most of things like cancer or heart disease. Some of those things you can treat, some you can't nowadays, because procedures are "elective" and hospitals don't do them.


Look at states, or regions in other countries, that were under lockdown even though they did not (yet) have high numbers of COVID infections.

Hospitals in these places also cancelled elective surgeries, and people avoided going doctors. But there was no excess mortality.

> Hospitals in these places also cancelled elective surgeries, and people avoided going doctors. But there was no excess mortality.

Read that again. Seems implausible AF.

Yes, and there is a good argument that such deaths are COVID-related, even though the virus itself didn’t infect the person. This is one of the reasons that “excess deaths” is a compelling measure.

If I shoot you to prevent you from falling over the edge of a cliff, is that a fall-related death?

Causation is difficult. Obviously the answer is somewhere in the middle. I just hope that in the coming years, researchers are permitted and incentived to analyze the numbers in detail.

If you won't or can't get medical care due to covid and die from your lack of medical care I'd say it's fair to say that you died because of covid.

Escorts and strippers (sex workers) also can't perfect with social distancing in mind.

Serious question: will unregulated industries bother with public health orders if they are already ignoring the law to begin with?

Isn't it only the US (in the developed world) criminalizing sex work?

It's mixed. Some countries have it regulated, but legal, others, like Sweden, make it legal to sell sex, but illegal to buy.

Strippers are usually regulated.

Prostition is legal in many countries.

A digital platform with some sort of interaction (clap, reactions, emojis, live chat with some sort of censorship) might adjust public spectacles to the new age.

It’s one thing to watch a video of a performance, and quite another to watch it live.

This. Watching a live performance can be way better than watching a video... but watching a live performance over Zoom is usually worse.

It kind of has already -- Twitch, etc -- but whatever it evolves into online seems unlikely to support expensive and lavishly budgeted spectacles like Cirque.

I feel certain live performances and sports with physically-present audiences will return, as that experience seems to fill some kind of deep-seated human need. (One I certainly share)

But I increasingly fear that COVID-19 represents something like an asteroid-versus-dinosaurs event where, even though life continued, it looked drastically different. Perhaps it will be a good thing in the long run, but much will be lost.

Me too. I talk to ppl and they're kinda waiting everything to go back to normal because <totally-crazy-conspiracy-theory> or the vaccine, but I believe that the effects of this crisis will be long standing and many things will ultimately change for ever.

I share your belief that it will change a lot, but I'm less fearful about it. I believe that quite a bit of traditions and "how we do things" are mostly there because that's how it was done, not because they are still what people want. A major disruption makes that more obvious and asks the question whether we still want it the way it was before.

Maybe we don't want e.g. theaters any more. They've had declining audiences for quite a while and are, at least over here, heavily subsidized by the government. That money could also be used on other things that more people care for. Starting anew isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I never liked circus. It was mildly interesting in tv or movies. The one time that I went to a show, I was lucky enough to be far from the action: a lion sprayed the two front rows. The smell was everywhere, everything had a sad vibe, even (maybe specially) the clowns. Only trapeze artists saved the evening for me.

Cirque du Soleil was an entirely different matter. Everything was shiny, cool, happy. My son had a great time. I had a great time. Sad to see them close. Hope they can come back to life somehow.

Cirque du Soleil certainly are different and work like a tightly knit family, they do have the advantage of not being a traveling show though.

Having been back-stage at a circus many times for work, it's a really tough and hard life to live in...

They eventually removed all of their animals from their show, not because of external pressure, but because they could no longer care for the animals as they used to.

For those that haven't seen their VR experience, try and see it, it's jaw-dropping good.

Cirque has/had multiple traveling shows. They spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks in each city, depending on whether it’s an arena or a big tent show.

There's a documentary on the traveling show logistics I remember seeing one time. It included a traveling school container so that the children of the employees could maintain an education.

I thought they where more permanent than just a few days, if so, that's impressive considering their show quality (Which probably differ a lot if they are travelling)..

They are in places like Las Vegas where they have multiple "permanent" (as in years long runs) shows. They also have traveling shows that will stay for a few days in a city and generally have their own tents and such that they setup, they don't use existing buildings or arenas.

To be fair, Cirque du Soleil is closer to art than it’s to circus.

It's basically Chinese circus with better production values.

Ever seen the Falun Gong sponsored Shen Yun production?

I watched a Shen Yun show. There was certainly some Falun Gong propaganda but otherwise the show was quite enjoyable.

You mean audience-sponsored Falun Gong front?

Why on earth is this downvoted? I saw Shen Yun here in Toronto, and also the recent Cirque one, and I've gotta say, Shen Fun really took the cake for me. Stunning.

Probably because Shen Yun is the propaganda arm of Falun Gong. That doesn't make the show any less cool, though.

They're probably not closing, just bankruptcy to restructure their debt.

Cirque was in trouble long before COVID. They expanded too quickly around the world and spread themselves too thin. None of their shows in the last ~10 years have been blockbusters (most of them already retired), and the novelty of the original Vegas ones has worn off. They tried a theater division which failed. They had already started to restructure their operations and announced layoffs as early as 2015. I imagine the current environment was the nail in the coffin.

Maybe around the world is also where they found more success? My parents have been visiting their shows in Germany for the last few years, and they've been sold out (or close to it) every time. I'm sure that the permanent location in Berlin they had planned would've also been a success for at least a few years.

Most of their revenue comes from a handful of long-running shows in Vegas. Tours and international expansions have been, for the most part, failures.

Yeah. Mystere prints money, while the newer shows are often in debt for decades.

The layoffs and restructuring in 2015 was to get slimmer for a sale. Guy sold 90% of the company off right after for 1.5 billion. Cirque has been run by bean counters since even before the sale even went through.

Covid is destroying the entire entertainment industry. Huge entertainment companies, staging and rental industry, broadway theaters, touring etc are just getting hammered. In some ways, Cirque is more likely to come through than most since they have the cash flowing in from Quebec government.

For those that haven't seen a Cirque show, they've recently started putting 1hr samples on YouTube. Very very different to 'traditional' circus with a lot more theatre where many of the performers are essentially professional athletes with theatre skills.


Live entertainment is the least "Essential Service" of all. Most of the professional performers I know are making masks to try and survive.

Hey, anyone looking to hire an ex-circus performer? My digital cv is here https://circusscientist.com/cv

Mostly Android apps but I can do Wordpress, data input, server management, creative coding...

What did you do in the circus? How'd you get into tech?

I run a successful entertainment business here in Durban, started off as a street performer (Juggling, Unicycling, Rope Walking and Magic) after dropping out of an I.T. degree course. Started off in tech just solving business problems, like the company website and booking system, making my own LED equipment for performance and also as a hobby for fun. Most of it is documented on my CV, and on my blog and tutorial site https://circusscientist.com

The show does go on(line): https://bigtopentertainment.co.za

My dad was a professional programmer (Cobol and Fortran!!) so I have been programming since I was a kid actually.

If there is one company that deserves a bailout... Cirque du Soleil is a cultural treasure.

This is exactly what bankruptcy protection should be for. Cirque (and 1001 other businesses) have a viable future ahead of them. They just need their creditors to be held off for 6 months. The alternative is that a valuable business is destroyed and no one (not even the creditors) gets much back.

As a brit, I envy the US their bankruptcy process. It is a lot less punative than the UK system...

Ouch, I was planning on seeing a Cirque show in May and obviously it was cancelled and refunded. In my opinion, it's a good value for the money. Hopefully we'll see them recover in some form or another.

Can’t say we did not see this coming.

Why not? The founder sold most of his stake to 3 investment firms. One of which (at least) is big on Leveraged Buyouts:


Why? Were they unsustainable in any way? When I went to their show, the tickets were sold out very fast. It was long ago anyway.

I'm sure they were doing fine until the pandemic.

Lol ? Who is going to see this right now. Travel is fundamental to a live show.

There are many business affected by the pandemic. Depending on where you are, you can ask for some help from government. It won't work for every business of course, but they have a strong brand and a nice trajectory.

It was sold for $1.5B to private equity in 2015. I am assume it was largely debt financed. This looks like a default on debt and laying off employees. It will likely be back post vaccine, and owned by the current debt holders.

There's a teeny tiny obstacle to live audience performances right now, I think it was that one beer company.

Amaluna is by far the best live performance of anything I've seen in my life.

I seriously hope they manage to come back from this. Their shows are magical.

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