Cirque du Soleil appears to be the Wal-Mart of theatre. In New York City and Miami Beach, some residents are rising up in opposition, trying to keep the famed human circus from joining their communities.
The performance troupe has plans to venture out from its homes in Las Vegas and Orlando, but some fear it may eclipse local businesses with its in-theatre restaurants.
Miami Beach nightclub owner David Wallack recently sent a letter to city officials, unhappy with Cirque’s plan to convert the Jackie Gleason Theatre into a $150 million, 1,200-capacity entertainment complex.
“What good is it if [Cirque] leeches business away from the entire nightclub comity?” Wallack wrote, according to the Miami Herald. “Cirque du Soleil becomes the big Wal-Mart, putting ‘boutique Mom and Pop restaurants and clubs’ out of business.”
Wallack, whose Mango’s Tropical Café uses showgirls to bring in foot traffic, is not opposed to the renovation but is unhappy with the restaurant and nightclub that are expected to be included in the deal.
Also, Cirque partners – which include Clear Channel Communications – are asking for between $50 million and $100 million in public subsidies to build the complex. That made the nightclub execs’ list of grievances. The partners have secured $50 million of their own cash.
Jorge Perez, the Miami developer partnering with Cirque to bring the club to South Beach, told the paper he doesn’t believe it will hurt local businesses and was surprised by the opposition.
“I would think it would promote their business, not detract from it,” Perez said.
There was a closed-door City Hall meeting November 17th with tourism leaders who want the public funds to go toward a new banquet facility at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Meanwhile, the nightclub industry was preparing its own anti-Cirque strategy, the Herald said.
Up north in the Big Apple, city leaders were opposing Cirque’s plan to set up shop off Broadway, between 42nd Street and 10th Avenue.
“Times Square-style uses belong in Times Square,” State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried told the city Planning Commission during “fervent public testimony,” according to The New York Times. “A circus can be a wonderful thing, in an appropriate place, but it is not legitimate theatre.”
Cirque partners plan to build a $140 million, 1,800-seat theatre in NYC. It includes a 60-story tower, which is higher than what’s been allowed in the past.
Last year, a “theatre bonus” zoning regulation was created to encourage the building and preservation of theatre on the far west end of 42nd Street, according to the Times, but opponents don’t believe the commercial Cirque was part of that vision. The human circus has a $500 million annual revenue, the Times said.