Cirque du Soleil is enthusiastic about expansion into China
More than one year after China’s Fosun Capital Group had invested in Cirque du Soleil, the circus group has now rolled out plans targeting what could be its most promising market: China.
“I am very, very confident and bullish about China. Having said that, I would like to have a touring show every year in China and this tour will ideally be in 10 cities,” said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of the company, during his latest visit to Shanghai to attend the annual conference of the Canada China Business Council.
“We plan to sell 100,000 tickets per city, which means we will stay in our big tents for about one and a half months in each location. We would also like to have resident shows in five cities,” he added.
The first resident show is scheduled for November 2018 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. The company is also planning to build its first permanent theater in China in the city. This theater, situated in the heart of a 1.8-million-square-meter complex in downtown Hangzhou, will have 1,500 seats and host eight shows a week.
China will also be the first market outside North America to host the company’s latest Avatar-inspired show, Toruk — The First Flight, come early 2018.
Lamarre said that the considerations for picking a Chinese city to base Cirque du Soleil’s permanent theaters include a strong flow of tourists and a large local population. In China, he has set the benchmark at 10 million residents combined with another 10 million tourists, a standard that he says should be easy to achieve in China but not in North America.
Up to 70 percent of the Hangzhou cast will be Chinese artists, though the percentage of Chinese in the global tour group which comprises about 1,500 performers will remain around 20 percent.
“We have been working for 30 years with Chinese performing arts organizations which have been very helpful in feeding us with good Chinese artists. We are very confident we will create lots of jobs in China for Chinese artists,” said Lamarre.
The Canadian also revealed that Chinese artists will not be the only Chinese element in the shows as the company is looking to appeal to the local market, saying that the first resident show in China will be designed to be “a junction and interaction of the 36-year-old circus’ expertise and Chinese cultures”.
Based on the findings of a company survey, Lamarre is convinced that the rising middle class in China is demanding for entertainment options that combine an international element with a touch of their hometown culture, something that he knows just how to implement.
Having joined Cirque du Soleil in 2001, one of Lamarre’s biggest contributions to the company is his efforts in international development, having boosted the company’s footprint from just three resident shows and four touring shows back then to 19 shows in 350 cities around the world right now.
With regard to the planned ticket prices for Cirque du Soleil’s shows in China, Lamarre revealed that visitors can expect to pay around $70. The average ticket price for similar shows by other companies in China cost around $40.
“My objective is that if you are part of the middle class, you will be able to afford the tickets,” said Lamarre.
Lamarre believes that the best way to convince millions of Chinese to pay such prices is to simply let the local audience know about Cirque du Soleil. He plans to embark on an extensive promotional campaign encompassing “all TV channels and all Internet outlets” and is confident that people will be flocking to the tents once they see the beauty and scale of the performances his company offers.
Cirque du Soleil first made its debut in China in Shanghai in 2007. While the circus group has been largely absent in the country since, Chinese tourists have nonetheless been a major source of revenue throughout the years.
Lamarre believes that the live show market will be the next big thing after China’s booming movie industry, which has been experiencing a 40-percent annual growth rate every year for the past decade.
“If you come to China once every year, you will be flabbergasted to see how quickly China has evolved. One year in China is a decade in North America. People here are just grabbing information and implementing it so quickly,” said Lamarre.
In April 2015, Fosun Capital Group, one of China’s largest private conglomerates, joined hands with US-based TPG Capital to acquire an 80 percent stake in Cirque de Soleil. Lamarre said that this deal has been pivotal to the development of the company in China.
“Fosun has been a development accelerator for us. They have really opened a lot of doors for us that I didn’t even know existed in China,” said Lamarre.
We are very confident we will create lots of jobs in China for Chinese artists.” Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil's first resident show in China will take place in Hangzhou on Nov 2018.