“The Greatest Show On Earth” is about to take its final bow: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced Saturday that it will permanently shut down after 146 years.
Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the company that produces the spectacle, shared the news on the company’s website that the last performance will be held this spring. Feld Entertainment has owned the circus for nearly 50 years.
“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® will hold its final performances in May of this year,” Feld said in the statement. “Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”
Feld also told AP that several aspects of running a circus, including traveling by rail and providing a school for performers’ children on the road, were no longer feasible.
“The competitor in many ways is time,” Feld told the AP. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”
Before it closes its doors, the circus will perform 30 shows as part of its two current nationwide tours. The final acts will be on May 7 in Providence, Rhode Island, and on May 21 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Animal rights groups such as PETA cheered news of the closure. The circus officially retired its last performing elephants in May 2016, acquiescing to pressure from activists who objected to the use of bull hooks to train the animals. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey also run a 200-acre elephant conservation center in Florida, where former proboscidea performers now reside.