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Ringling Bros. Circus to End After 146 Years

Variety logo Variety 1/15/2017 Alex Stedman
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After more than a century, “The Greatest Show on Earth” is coming to an end.

Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced Sunday that the show will be getting its curtain call in May. The company broke the news to the circus’ nearly 500 employees after shows in Orlando and Miami over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.

“This was a difficult business decision to make, but by ending the circus tours, we will be able to concentrate on the other lines of business within the Feld Entertainment portfolio,” Juliette Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement. “Now that we have made this decision, as a company, and as a family, we will strive to support our circus performers and crew in making the transition to new opportunities.”

The news comes after rising operation costs, falling ticket sales, and costly legal battles made the show increasingly more difficult to produce. PETA and other animal rights groups led protests against the circus and, after state and local laws placed more pressure on the company’s use of exotic animals, it ended its elephant act last May.

PETA was quick to applaud the news on Twitter, calling it “the end of the saddest show on earth.”

The circus began in the late 1800s, when Phineas Taylor Barnum’s show of animal and human oddities merged with the Ringling brothers’ juggling act and started traveling by train across the country. The Feld family acquired the circus in 1967.

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