Think we have it bad over here? We’re not alone. From Australia to India, and likely in-between, tent shows are not packing them in.
Courtesy of Aussie Barry Nixon, here’s a story in The Times of India ruing a "dying industry" throughout the country. “How can a circus be made meaningful when there are no more lions, tigers and panthers now,” questioned Vinod Kumar, who manages a major Indian circus. He blames most of the problem on “the indifferent attitude of government towards circus,” primarily for its having banned lions, tigers, bears and monkeys.
“Parents come to us and they inquire about these animals, as they look forward to show their young ones the tamed-wild animals.” That is exactly what I have heard from a number of circus owners and staff, and born out by actions taken on, among other shows, New Cole and Ringling-Barnum.
Kumar looks to the government as the only answer.
Down in Australia, tent shows are managing to attract startlingly tiny crowds. Although, per Nixon to Showbiz David, “There are more circuses now than at any time in history,” most of them are hurting for warm bodies in the seats.
An Aussie circus owner told Nixon that shows near Sydney are enjoying an uptake over the recent summer school holidays. Royale drew about 250 people per show, which gave it a 30% capacity. Lennon’s sold 150 people tickets each show, realizing 15% capacity, and Webbers, drawing one hundred souls a show, reached a whopping 10% of the seats.
Now, as for the animal issue, here's a little anecdote that only adds to my sense that a growing number of people are turning back in favor of circus animal acts. I fell into a most surprising conversation last year after a game board club meet, with a woman from Queens who described herself as an atheist. The subject of circus came up; she knew virtually nothing of my views or writing. Oh, no, I thought, here it comes --- another rant. Well, oh no, it didn’t come. This woman totally surprised me by defending circus animal acts, noting how they inspire and delight children.
Circus owners have displayed remarkable tact and understanding in the face of relentless harassment from the protesters. Perhaps in time, the public will reward them with due appreciation and revived patronage.