After 146 Years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Says “The End”

Ringling Bros

It’s a sad day for the world of entertainment. After more than fourteen decades in the business, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end the “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

The owner of what is probably the greatest circus act in history told AP that they are closing their act for good in May 2017. Employees were only informed of the decision on Saturday after completing shows in Miami and Orlando.

There are multiple reasons being cited for the upcoming closure of the circus group, including declining traffic, high operating cost, the public’s changing tastes and the constant embroilment with animal rights groups.

Owned by Feld Entertainment, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been performing in its many forms for nearly a century and a half. The decision to close has been made, but the company will hold another 30 shows before the final curtain falls in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

The world’s most famous circus act was formed when P.T. Barnum’s traveling exhibition merged with the Ringling Brothers’ act back in 1907. However, for the next 12 years, until 1919, both acts were run separately. The first combined show was held on March 29, 1919 in New York City, and this is how it was promoted:

“The Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows and the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are now combined into one record-breaking giant of all exhibitions.”

In late 1967, the group was bought over by the Feld family and other investors for a whopping $8 million.

The biggest challenge to the continued success of the most famous circus group in the world, in one word, is technology. Today’s generation has little interest in forming long lines unless it’s for the latest iPhone. With mobile devices on a tear, the younger generation has neither the time nor the inclination to watch something live when they can simply watch it on YouTube.

The closure of the circus could be the beginning of the end for many such live entertainment acts. What next – live theater?

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