Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy protection

By Zach Harper

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses and the entertainment industry very hard, and Canada's Cirque du Soleil is no exception. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on June 29, saying the last few months have been particularly devastating for the company.

"For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organization," Daniel Lamarre, the company's CEO and president, said in a statement. "However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to COVID-19, management had to act decisively to protect the company's future."

According to CBC News, if the company is successful with its application on June 30, it will file similar paperwork in the United States. The public broadcaster reports that even before COVID-19 began shaking up the global economy, the company owed about US$900 million.

Cirque du Soleil was formed in Montreal in 1984 and was born out of a group of touring entertainers called Les Échassiers who travelled around Quebec from 1979 to 1983. Cirque became immensely popular in the 1990s and 2000s when it began operating more than 19 shows in 300 different cities around the world. Its Las Vegas shows are permanent, and prior to the pandemic they typically hosted about 9,000 people a night.

Harry and Meghan meeting the cast of Cirque du Soleil's Totem in London in 2019. Photo: © Paul Grover - WPA Pool/Getty Image

Its productions are also beloved by the stars and royals, attracting many celebrities every time a new event is staged. The company has also worked with Prince Harry in the past. In 2019, its London production of Totem benefitted Sentebale, the HIV/AIDS charity the Duke of Sussex formed with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho. Sentebale works in that country, Botswana and Malawi.

The group's success has also seen it win multiple awards, including eight Emmys, a Juno and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award.

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