The owners of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told AP that after 146 years the show will close forever in May.
Company executives say many factors contributed to this. Tastes have changed, less attendance, high operating costs and animal rights groups’ constant opposition to the circus all helped bring about the circus closing.
Feld Entertainment is the company that owned the circus since 1967 and they said the decision to close was a difficult one. Circus employees got the bad news Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami. There are still 2 circuses touring this season doing another 30 shows and the last show will be in the Nassau Coliseum on May 7th.
For almost a century and a half the circus was a mainstay of American entertainment. It was chock full of exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats. The circus traveled around America by train, and the sheer scale of the entertainment and exotic animals attracted great numbers.
The circus was considered wholesome entertainment for the entire family by the 1950s. But kids became less excited with going to the circus over time. The circus now had to compete with movies, television, video games and the internet respectively. It didn't have marketing or related merchandise that could generate income (perhaps with the exception of those swinging flashlights that went on when the lights would go off).
Most of the employees will need to look for other work and Feld entertainment is trying to help with placement. Existing animals will be going to suitable homes. These include lions, tigers, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, camels and kangaroos. The circus had stopped using elephants in May 2016 and that also weakened attendance.
Feld Entertainment still has other successful shows but the great American institution of the circus is soon forever closing its doors.