“The Greatest Show on Earth” is making a comeback – without animal acts – five years after shutting down its three-ring circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey announced on Wednesday.
The interactive live show will launch in September next year, celebrating performers from around the world “displaying incredible feats that push the limits of human potential”, the Florida-based company said in a news release.
A global talent search seeks acts to bring the 360-degree show to life as a unique interactive experience for each audience, the company said.
Rehearsals are set to begin on 23 June for a 50-city North American tour.
The circus ended its 146-year run in January 2017 when ticket sales declined after customer distaste with animal acts and costly court battles with animal rights activists that led to the end of elephant acts in 2016.
Feld Entertainment, the production company behind Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, had fought various lawsuits against animal rights groups over the years. In 2014, it won a $16m settlement, en in 2011 the USDA fined it $270,000 for Animal Welfare Act violations after Mother Jones reported the elephants spent most of their lives chained, were often whipped with bullhooks, and were left in cages full of feces.
None of the efforts of animal rights groups appeared to have any direct impact on the circus until 2015, wanneer local governments began taking action. Los Angeles and Oakland banned the use of bullhooks, short hooked poles used to train and instruct elephants; and Asheville, Noord-Carolina, banned performing elephants at the 7,600-seat US Cellular Center.
The bans put limitations on the circus’s ability to tour. In an interview on the Ringling Bros elephant conservation webwerf, Kenneth Feld, the company’s chief executive, also cited a shift in the public’s attitude toward touring wild animals, following moves by SeaWorld to ban the breeding of captive orcas.