The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced their performances will end in May of 2017 after 146 years due to a serious decline in ticket sales.
Although there were many reasons for the drop in attendance, a big portion was due to the retirement of elephant performances.
Multiple lawsuits had been filed against the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for reported animal abuse, especially in regard to the elephants. In May 2016, Ringling Bros. decided to remove the elephants from performances and send them to a conservation in Florida in response to the lawsuits.
Daughter of the CEO of Feld Entertainment and the owner of the circus, Juliette Feld, stated that while ticket sales have been dropping over the past 10 years, there was a “dramatic drop” after the elephants left. Ingrid Newkirk, President of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote a statement saying, “After 36 years of PETA protests…PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals.”
Another reason for the drop in ticket sales is that times have changed. People find outlets for entertainment. Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, told the Alternative Press that the current show’s duration is only 2 hours and 7 minutes, in comparison to the 3-hour length in 1967 when the family purchased the show. The longest segment in the show is a tiger act which goes on for 12 minutes. “Try getting a 3 or 4 year old to sit for 12 minutes,” he said, indicating challenges faced by decreased attention spans of today’s youth.
Over 500 people work for the circus as either performers or staff, but only a few can go and work on other shows that Feld Entertainment owns, such as Monster Jam, Disney on Ice, and Marvel Live.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family,” says Feld. The Feld Entertainment broke the news to their employees after shows in Miami and Orlando on Saturday, January 14.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus still has about 30 shows left to perform between now and the time they close for good, with the final show being will be held in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.