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Feld Entertainment pushes into new year with big show plans

Executives of the live show production company have a lot to look forward to in 2023, even as some industry challenges linger.


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As 2022 winds down and the pandemic drops further back in the rearview mirror, Feld Entertainment executives have plenty to smile about. That comes from characters as diverse as acrobats and crisscrossing motorcycle competitors. 

Both are key elements for Manatee County-based Feld’s ongoing post-COVID strategy to continue doing what it does best: put on shows and performances worldwide, in everything from Disney on Ice to Marvel Universe Live. A pair of 2023 events — “The Greatest Show on Earth,” featuring acrobats and more, and the SuperMotocross World Championship Tour — are good illustrations of the company’s show-must-go-on mentality.  

“The Greatest Show on Earth” is being produced under a revamped and rebooted Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brand. Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling brand, announced in May the show would be making its return in 2023 — sans the word circus. The original show, under the name “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” ran for 146 years, through 2017. Feld Entertainment removed elephants from the show in 2016, and company officials later said a drop in ticket sales without elephants was greater than expected. That led to the eventual shutdown.

The Ringling franchise includes consumer products and licensing, featuring toys, games, packaged goods, collectibles and more, Feld officials say. Theme park attractions and touring exhibitions are in the works, too. And, “to immerse fans more thoroughly into the world of Ringling, a documentary is also being produced that will take the audience backstage to meet the cast and crew and learn what it takes to be part of ‘The Greatest Show On Earth,’” the company says in a statement. 

“Ringling Bros. holds such a special place in people’s hearts,” Feld COO Juliette Feld Grossman said in an early December interview. “It’s an iconic piece of entertainment. This is so exciting that we are bringing it back.”

“The Greatest Show on Earth” will begin rehearsals in June, say company officials, with most of that work happening in secret inside the company’s expansive Palmetto, Manatee County campus. The U.S. tour will officially launch in September, visiting more than 50 cities in North America. Tickets are expected to go on sale in April.

The SuperMotocross World Championship Tour is another big Feld-led project in the works. The tour was introduced in October at a press event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where officials dropped two big pieces of news. One, says Feld Grossman, is NBC/Peacock signed a five-year media rights deal for the tour. The second news nugget: the prize money will be $10 million — largest in the sport. “This is an exciting and historic move for the company,” Feld Grossman says. 

The 31-race tour, a partnership between Feld Motor Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing, combines the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship and AMA Pro Motocross Championship, according to a statement. The tour will utilize what Feld executives call the “world’s most challenging tracks—designed to test athletes both physically and mentally.”

“This has been two-and-a-half years in the making,” Feld Entertainment Chair and CEO Ken Feld says in the statement. “Feld Motor Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing initially came together to preserve the 2020 racing season during the pandemic and soon realized we’re stronger together. We asked ourselves, ‘How can we better the sport?’ And from that emerged the concept for the SuperMotocross World Championship. We’re dedicated to retaining the history of each respective championship and will continue to crown individual champions for both disciplines, but we’ll now come together to crown an ultimate champion.” 

The SuperMotocross World Championship Tour, a a partnership between Feld Motor Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing, kicks off in October. (Courtesy photo)
The SuperMotocross World Championship Tour, a a partnership between Feld Motor Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing, kicks off in October. (Courtesy photo)

While both SuperMotocross and “The Greatest Show on Earth” hold big potential, not everything's coming up like cotton candy for Feld executives. The live entertainment industry, and company, remain in challenging times. For one, supply chain delays have impacted the company’s international side, says Feld Grossman, turning timeframes for gear and equipment to arrive from a few weeks to a few months. “There’s a lot more uncertainty in the international market right now,” she says. 

Another challenge? In an economic downturn, the chase for customers can become more acute. That’s something the company is watching closely. “We are always thinking about the customer and our customer is a family customer,” Feld Grossman says. “And that family customer is under a lot of financial pressure right now.” 

 

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Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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