Cirque du Soleil’s “O” Featured in Upcoming Documentary
When Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre met MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle at the Bellagio on Tuesday, the two executives performed in front of a small audience.
A film crew.
The back-and-forth has been banked for an upcoming MGM Studios documentary chronicling the return of “O”. Lamarre points out that this meeting was not organized and was a very real update of the occupancy expectations of MGM Resorts hotels over the next few months to assess the demand for the purchase of tickets.
As the Circus says, the intermission is over.
The Cirque’s best-selling show and the strongest brand are relaunched on Thursday evening. As reported in April, MGM Studios (which is not formally linked to MGM Resorts) has partnered with Cirque du Soleil to develop an account under the corporate takeover cart from COVID.
Documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter (“Trapped”, “The Way I See It”, “John Lewis: Good Trouble”) leads the creative team. The dramatic tension is clear, as Cirque du Soleil had performed 52,000 shows for more than 70 million on the Strip before COVID forced its 44 shows around the world to close. “Zumanity” in New York-New York has been closed forever.
“O” was Cirque’s most successful production in Las Vegas, selling approximately 748,000 tickets per year. The Aquatic Spectacular is the biggest box office hit happening in one location all over the world.
For the Circus, the advantages of allowing a documentary team in its rebirth are multiple. Primarily, the company will generate income through the sale and distribution of the finished project. Worldwide Television’s MGM president Mark Burnett, a big Cirque fan who visited the company’s Montreal headquarters, is in Las Vegas for the show’s relaunch.
Filming is due to be completed after Thursday’s performance, and MGM Studios will purchase the project for worldwide distribution, for release in the fall. Several potential buyers will be at the “O” premiere on Thursday.
The project will also serve as an effective marketing tool. Cirque has become the international leader in bringing theater-wide entertainment back to the world, a process MGM Studios is sure to capture.
“We thought it would happen, and now I’m living it,” Lamarre said in a conversation at Bellagio Wednesday morning. “Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil are becoming the symbol of the resurrection of the performing arts. The opening of ‘Mystere’ and ‘O’ shows everyone that, yes, the industry is coming back.
Lamarre estimates that it will take a year, perhaps a year and a half, for the Cirque to return all of its income to its 2019 figures.
“All the other markets, including Broadway, open later than Las Vegas,” Lamarre said. “I hope I’m not exaggerating, but Las Vegas is the first market in the world to really open up to entertainment.”
Lamarre says the upcoming documentary also puts the human element of the business at the forefront. A common problem with the circus troupe is that its often flawless precision can trump the human performers who make it all possible. This is an opportunity to evoke personal, real and behind-the-scenes stories of circus artists.
“Absolutely, 100% we want to show the emotion of our artists, how much they have overcome,” said Lamarre. “Everything is linked to human performance.
This project could lead to an ongoing series of Cirque reality shows.
“It could open the door to more TV content,” Lamarre said. “Mark being a big, big fan of the Circus, he convinced MGM to make the documentary. We can move forward from there.
Lamarre informed the cast of “Mystere” after Monday’s relaunch that the company and Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin had extended the show’s contract by 10 years. Specifically, a five-year extension with another five-year option.
This June 2020 negotiation lasted about 10 seconds.
“In the middle of the crisis I spoke to Phil Ruffin, he called in the middle of it and said, ‘How can I help?’ Said Lamarre. “I said, ‘It would be great to extend our contract.’
“How many years do you want? Ruffin said.
“Ten?” said Lamarre.
“It’s done,” Ruffin said.
“That’s what it’s like to do business with Phil Ruffin,” said Lamarre. “When he first bought the hotel, the first thing he said to me was, ‘I love’ Mystere ‘and I want it to last forever.’ “
Too bad the MGM Studios team isn’t here for this conversation.
Lamarre also said that MGM Resorts had signed for a five-year extension of “O” and two years each for “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay and “Love” at the Mirage. Nine years, in total, of contractual commitment to exit COVID.
And “Ka” at the MGM Grand is already signed until 2024. This show is slated for a reopening in October.
Lamarre has been on an emotional Tilt-A-Whirl for the past 16 months, first shutting down the business, navigating its sale and helping put the pieces together for the reopening.
In November, when the Cirque was being sold to a group led by Capital Catalyst Group, Lamarre spent 14 straight hours on the phone for interviews with international media.
“I had two PR people with me, answering calls and giving me sandwiches,” Lamarre said. “But I had to be approachable, and talk about what the survival of our business was.”
The result was 5 billion impressions worldwide on Cirque’s Return.
“I was thinking maybe 1 billion, even 700 million impressions on the Circus,” Lamarre said. “It shows me that the Cirque brand is stronger than ever. “
But it’s not just a business. The principal director of the Circus is always amazed by the acrobatics, comedy and art that emanate from the scenes of his company.
“It’s not just numbers. I want to see the artists, the magic, what will impress you at the show tonight, ”said Lamarre. “I get so emotional, again. I was moved watching ‘O’ during rehearsals on Saturday night. After opening ‘Mystere’ I was so happy that I wanted to hug everyone.
“The day I’m not impressed with our artists is the day I stay home.
John Katsilometes’ column is published daily in section A. His “PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected] To pursue @johnnykats on Twitter, @ JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.