Entertainment

Circus saw a decline for years, Ringling executives say

Juliette Feld, Chief Operating Officer and Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment Inc., parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that the 146-year-old circus would hold its final performances later this year.
Juliette Feld, Chief Operating Officer and Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment Inc., parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that the 146-year-old circus would hold its final performances later this year. ttomkins@bradenton.com

Ringling circus executives, who are closing the “Greatest Show on Earth” after 146 years, said Monday that the “difficult decision” came down to a downward trend over the past eight years.

Feld Entertainment executives held a news conference in Florida, where circus roots run deep, to explain the factors that contributed to shutting down the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in May. The last show in Miami was Sunday night.

READ MORE: Why is circus is leaving town — and never coming back

“We are sad,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “It was a very difficult decision to make.”

Feld and Chief Operating Officer Juliette Feld declined to disclose how much the company has lost trying to keep the circus afloat. The company runs other shows, including “Disney on Ice.”

READ MORE: How the circus changed through the years

The announcement to end the entertainment mainstay comes one month after Feld Entertainment announced Kristen Michelle Wilson of Orlando would become the circus’ first female ringmaster. Wilson is one of 400 employees who will be displaced when the tour ends in May.

About 50 to 60 jobs based in the circus town of Manatee-Sarasota area will be affected by the closing, according to Feld’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Stephen Payne.

Kenneth and Juliette Feld cited multiple reasons for the decision, including declining attendance, high operating costs, changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups. After the circus bid farewell to performing elephants, “we saw an even more dramatic drop” in ticket sales, Kenneth Feld said.

Juliette Feld said despite that, the company stands behind the decision to relieve the elephants from circus work and place them in the Ringling’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Central Florida.

Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus played its final Miami shows on Sunday in front of excited kids and some wistful, but realistic parents.

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