Cirque du Soleil targets 'beginning of 2021' for shows to return from virus closures, CEO says

Key Points
  • Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre told CNBC he hopes the circus company's shows in Las Vegas will be the first to return when the coronavirus pandemic permits. 
  • Lamarre said the company is targeting "the beginning of 2021" as a possible return date for its shows. 
  • Montreal-based Cirque filed for protection from creditors Monday, due to the Covid-19 outbreak's impact on its business. 
Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre on the company's bankruptcy filing

Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre told CNBC on Tuesday that the circus company is eyeing "the beginning of 2021" for the return of its shows, following a coronavirus-driven suspension. 

"The good news is all of our cast and crew in Las Vegas lives there, so that's why we're hopeful that we can open Vegas first because the artists are ready to go, so within a couple of weeks of training and rehearsal, a show can be back on track," Lamarre said on "Squawk on the Street." 

Lamarre, whose comments came one day after Cirque du Soleil filed for bankruptcy protection, said the return of the company's shows in Orlando will also benefit from a locally based cast and crew. 

"It will be more complicated for touring shows because we cannot open touring shows unless all the airlines are working on a regular schedule and all the borders around the world are reopened, because when we do a touring show we tour in 450 cities around the world," he said. 

Cirque du Soleil and the live entertainment industry writ large have faced severe consequences from the Covid-19 crisis, with the virus outbreak leading to the cancellation of shows. On Monday, New York City's Broadway League announced that it has suspended shows for the rest of 2020. 

Lamarre said it will likely take the Montreal-based Cirque "a good two years" to return to pre-pandemic levels of profitability. But he said Cirque needs about 40% of its seats filled to break even, meaning "with the social distancing, if we could operate with 50% of our capacity, we would start making a little bit of profit." 

"So that's why we're hopeful that we could open some shows before that, but then again to really go back to the level of profitability we had before the crisis, we need full capacity," Lamarre said. He added that for any shows during the health crisis, the company would take the temperature of guests upon arrival at the theater and have a mandatory mask policy.

Cirque du Soleil cut nearly 3,500 employees as part of its creditor protection filing. The employees had previously been furloughed

Lamarre said he believes the initial purchase plan that Cirque has agreed to with existing shareholders helps solidify the company's long-term presence, although he noted other offers could be made in the coming weeks. 

"Obviously, they would have to come with an offer that is better for the future of the company, better for our employees," he said, noting that current shareholders could match such an offer. "So that's why today I can guarantee the future of Cirque du Soleil is ensured, and when normalcy is back, then all of our shows, progressively, will come back." 

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