‘Iris’ Wilts At Dolby

It seems inconceivable that a Cirque du Soleil production could be less than a smash, considering no fewer than five of its shows landed in the top 25 slots in Pollstar’s Top 100 North American Tours at mid-year. So what happened to Cirque’s “Iris” at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles?

The show, which local boosters expected to have a long and profitable run at the former Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center, ends Jan. 19 after a run of just more than a year.  Ticket sales did not “meet expectations,” according to a Cirque announcement reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The news comes as a disappointment not just to fans of Cirque’s big budget theatrical productions, but to Dolby Theatre developer CIM Group and quite possibly to the City of Los Angeles, which loaned the group $30 million to lure the show to Hollywood.

“Iris” has been the theatre’s primary tenant since spring, and after Dolby took over naming rights from bankrupt Kodak May 1.

CIM Group spokeswoman Karen Diehl said payments on the city loan would be made on schedule, despite the show’s closure, according to Deadline Hollywood.

“Iris,” depicting a history of the movies and sporting a Danny Elfman-penned score, cost a reported $100 million to produce. The cost includes upgrades to the Dolby Theatre.

“After a year of advertising, the fact that most people I ran in to had no knowledge of it being there says it all. It wasn’t able to get into the general consciousness,” Elfman told the Times.

Others blame a high ticket price, as much as $253 for certain VIP packages, the paper reported.

But another factor working against the production may have been an ill-conceived marketing strategy that depended on Angelenos to drive attendance for the first two years, and the tourist trade for many more to come.

“[Tourists] don’t have that in their minds when they come to L.A.  It’s the rare tourist that puts it on their radar,” Center Theatre Group’s Michael Ritchie told the Times.

But it’s hard to pin the failure on tourists; clearly, local theatregoers failed to pack the Dolby for as many as 11 performances per week – more than a typical Broadway production.

Yet, Los Angeles audiences helped drive Circue du Soleil’s early years as a popular show at the Santa Monica Pier starting as part of the Los Angeles Arts Festival in 1987.

With 20 permanent and touring productions worldwide, “Iris” may be an anomaly, but it’s not alone. “Viva Elvis” at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas closed in August, also suffering from soft ticket sales, according to the Times.