The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced on Saturday that “The Greatest Show on Earth” will be closing its curtains forever in May after 146-year run.
In a report by The Associated Press, the reason for the show’s shutdown comes from a combination of factors, company executives say. High operating costs, declining attendance, the public’s waning interest, and long battles with animal rights groups were just some of the reasons for its downfall.
The circus became an American staple known for its exotic animals (featuring elephants, lions, tigers, among others), flashy costumes, and insane acrobats. Its history goes back to the mid-1800s, where Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular. In Wisconsin, the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits in their hometown. Eventually, the two parties merged together to create the modern circus. As traveling troupes, they toured America by train while wowing audiences with their entertainment.
In recent years, Ringling Bros. have tried new ways to remain relevant. They hired their first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launched in interactive app for today’s generation of kids. However, they were no match for the internet-driven culture of YouTube, online gaming, and other forms of fun that demand the youth’s attention.
Ringling Bros. will continue performing between now and May. Of the remaining 30 shows left, major stops will include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.