The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which advertised itself as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, will close down in May after a 146-year run, the company says, citing a fall in attendance after its decision to end elephant shows.
Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said on late Saturday night that he and his family came to the decision because of high operating costs and ticket sales that have continued to fall over the years.
“Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop,” Feld said. “This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”
As a result, the company told its employees on Saturday night that the circus will close in late May. The two touring circuses will perform the 30 shows that have already been scheduled and the final two shows will take place in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, on May 21.
In early 2015, Feld Entertainment first announced that it would end its elephant acts by 2018, but the change was eventually moved up by two years. The final elephant show took place in May 2016, after which the company’s 13 elephants were allowed to retire at a conservation center in Florida.
The circus had been the subject of criticism for decades over its use of endangered species, though the company said previously that its decision to end elephant shows was not the result of protests. To replace the elephants, the company instead featured animals such as tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels.
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