This month, after 146 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is going out of business. The greatest show on earth will cease to be.
What killed the circus?
Some people believe that the death spiral began when elephants departed the Big Top last year after decades of public scolding and legal pressure. But ticket sales to Ringling Bros. have been declining for the last decade. In fact, there’s something particularly important about “the last decade.”
Kenneth Feld, chairman of Feld Entertainment, which bought the circus in 1967, said as much when he wrote, “There has been more change in the last decade than in the preceding 70 years.”
That’s the real story. It wasn’t the loss of elephants that killed the circus. It was something far bigger, and--even as I write this--it’s killing more than the greatest show on earth.