Cir­cus act

Cirque du Soleil is en­thu­si­as­tic about ex­pan­sion into China

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - ByXUJUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY PHO­TOS

Cirque du Soleil's first res­i­dent show in China will take place in Hangzhou on Nov 2018.

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