One of the most popular kids shows on TV is now going to be produced by one of the best known acrobatic troupes in the world, creating a new super family show producer to compete with the industry’s other family giant, Feld Entertainment.
Earlier today, Cirque du Soleil announced that it had purchased Minneapolis-based VStar productions, a firm that’s been rolled up by a private equity firm in recent years to include a deal with Nickelodeon to produce the popular kids show Paw Patrol Live. That paves the way for the company to compete with Feld Entertainment, the family show producer who had operated Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus until 2017 but continues to produce top family shows for Disney and others.
The VStar deal completes a rollup forowner AUA Private Equity Partners, who started buying family show producers in 2015 with the acquisition of VEE Corp following the retirement of founder Vince Egan. VEE Corp, which produced Sesame Street Live and shows like Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival, was combined with Blue Star Media at the time to eventually create VStar. In 2017, VStar purchased Cirque Productions, a Cirque du Soleil competitor, adopting Dream Studios, Cirque Dreams’ 25,000-sq-ft. state-of-the-art theatrical production facility in Pompano Beach, Florida as its home.
The deal diversifies Cirque du Soleil’s properties across all ages with touring shows and popular Vegas residency shows Love and Ka, as well as touring properties like Corteo and Bazzar. Cirque du Soleil bought Blue Man Group last July (at the time, we predicted Cirque would buy VStar) and now owns popular touring rights for Nickelodeon shows like Paw Patrol and Bubble Guppies Live. Last year Paw Patrol Live “Race to the Rescue” toured in 250 cities in 18 countries
In facing Feld, Cirque du Soleil takes on a competitor who won away the rights to produce a touring show for Sesame Street after years being produced by Vee Corp. Feld also produces Monster Jam, Disney Live, Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe and is developing tour properties for Jurassic World and a Trolls attraction in Manhattan being produced with DreamWorks.
“While circus arts will always be at the core of our creative offering, we continue to look for ways to expand and diversify our portfolio with new forms of entertainment and new brands, reaching new audiences and expanding our own creative and production capabilities,” Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group said in a statement. “VStar Entertainment Group has a proven track record and recognized expertise in small theatrical production, which complements Cirque du Soleil’s expertise in large-scale production and global touring. We firmly believe the knowledge transfer will help us develop our own capabilities in this type of entertainment and therefore, contribute to growing our footprint in the live entertainment production industry.”