Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey will return in a little more than a year with a new and modernized version of its traditional “Greatest Show on Earth.”
Palmetto-based Feld Entertainment announced Wednesday that a new edition of its show will debut in the fall of 2023 as a “multi-platform entertainment franchise” and that its creative team is now searching for acts around the world. Last fall, the company said it would relaunch its touring shows after a six-year break but without animals.
There is no reference to the word “circus” in the company’s announcement or in the new logo it unveiled.
In an interview, Chairman and CEO Kenneth Feld said the name Ringling and “The Greatest Show on Earth” have come to represent a certain kind of entertainment for the public.
“A circus means something different to everybody and it has for centuries. It’s a lot of different things,” Feld said. “I can say for certain that when you see ‘The Greatest Show on Earth,’ I know you will be enthralled. You’re going to be amazed by it.”
Along with announcing the new production, the company said it is creating a lifestyle brand “that connects with families and sparks real fun 365 days a year through live performances, digital content, consumer products, school curricula, youth circus arts programs and more.”
Feld Entertainment shut down its three-ring circus in 2017 after a 146-year run. Observers suggested at the time that years of animal rights protests against Ringling Bros. had led to a decline in ticket sales and the closing of the touring circus. Ringling was long known for its popular lions, tigers, elephants and other animal acts. Elephants were dropped from its shows in 2016.
The company said it will expand its Ringling operations to include a variety of consumer products and a licensing program with toys, games, packaged goods, collectibles and more. It also will seek to extend its brand through theme park attractions and touring exhibitions. Ringling also is producing a backstage documentary on the making of the show.
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Kenneth Feld said the company has had five years to reconsider what its shows would be and what audiences want in age of more digital entertainment.
“It will be 6 1/2 or seven years by the time we come back and there will be a whole new generation of people who have not been to Ringling. Parents will have the pleasure and joy of bringing their children,” he said.
But those who have been before should expect something different. “That is the point of what we’re going to do. We wouldn’t close the other show to open the same thing. That wouldn’t be logical. We are hoping to be around for at least another 150 years and there isn’t a 150-year-old business on the planet that is doing things the way they did them 150 years ago.”
The new logo features an R that suggests both a question mark and an exclamation point. It was designed to adapt to any kind of communication or product the company develops.
The company is now conducting an international search for acts that will be presented in the new production, which will be rehearsed in the Feld Entertainment production center in Palmetto, open in Tampa and be presented at many of the venues around the country where Ringling became an annual staple, Kenneth Feld said.
Rehearsals are expected to begin in June 2023, with a national tour of the United States beginning in September and visiting more than 50 cities.
Feld said that while the company respects the casts and history of the past, “we are also looking forward as to what it will take the greatest family entertainment in today’s world and for the people in the multi-generational side of it and what they will like and love.”