"Every crowd has a silver lining" - P. T. Barnum

"Every crowd has a silver lining" - P. T. Barnum
Wonderful quote, which I found on Johnny Pugh's Facebook Page -- a sparkling midway of some great Bill Carter photos, historic videos and mementos. The spirit of the old Cole soul comes alive!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Big Apple Circus in Meltdown? A Flop at the Movie House -- Why Did Nobody Come?

Part 3 in a series


What in the world did not happen last November?

How exciting it felt as last November 8th approached  – I would be seeing Big Apple Circus, which never comes to the west coast,  streaming live in a movie house only a few miles from where I live!

LIVE, indeed, by far the greatest draw to potential customers.  Opera fans flock to movie houses to watch live performances of the New York Met.  So, why not the big top?

The format, long in the making according to Paul Binder, granted  movie chain Fandango license to transmit a streaming performance of Metamorphosis into hundreds of movie houses nationwide.

How bold and revolutionary!   I could imagine it becoming an annual event; maybe in time, circuses from other parts of the world would follow suit.

So, why did so promising a premise go bust?  Why in at least three movie houses I have information on, did hundreds of empty seats sit vacant?

Incredibly inept programming and promotion casts unflattering light on a foundering operation, Big Apple Circus,  said by many in the know to be at the brink of its final season.

    Let us Count the Big Apple Blunders
First Blunder:  Not live everywhere.   Inconceivable that BAC did not push for a contract assuring that the performance would be witnessed live in every movie house coast to coast.  This would have allowed for a more consistent (not to mention honest)  ad campaign promising every ticket buyer the same live streaming experience, no matter their location.  It went out to California, tape delayed.

This could have been easily brought off by a 3 PM performance in Manhattan, so that, live streaming, it would be seen anywhere in the States beginning no earlier than 12 noon.

Second Blunder: Poorly promoted and publicized.  We are talking New York.  Big Apple.  Start spreading the news!  This alone had the potential to garner national media attention.  Maybe it did. Here in the Bay Area, I saw not one mention of the event on TV or in the newspapers.  What were they doing back there?  Did anybody think of picking up a telephone to call some TV and radio outlets?

Third Blunder:  Inept advertising.  Fandango initially listed the viewing time at the movie house nearest me, in Emeryville, at 9AM.  That would have offered me the show LIVE.  Yes!  I purchased a ticket in advance, a ticket bearing a show time of 9 AM.  Luckily, in checking back closer to show time, I was told that the film would be shown at noon.  A huge marketing blunder.  LIVE is what they should have been selling.  LIVE to everybody.  Have the people who run Big Apple Circus heard of LA?  It’s out here in California.

 Francesco was one of many all-too-average acts

Fourth Blunder:   Not the best Big Apple circus.

Yes, it may be unfair to judge any circus performance on film, through various angles controlling our focus, as opposed to watching it from a fixed seat at the venue. Be that as I may, what came through in the tape delay was a meandering stream of action straddled to a plodding scenario.  Indeed, it seemed as if the show was created to look as much like a children’s movie as a real circus.  Weak.

Out of the gate, not the usual high energy charivari splash that BAC does so well. Instead, labored closeups of ringmaster Jose Kane in a talky talky scene doing little bits of magic.  Clowning?  A charming French fellow, Francesco,  soon wore thin.  Some of the acts came off slow and humdrum.   Constantly shifting camera angles gave the affair a disjointed look.  At one moment, I seem to recall peering up into the nose of a camel, no?

What others thought:

First, and with no prompting or leading questions from myself, I’ll defer here to my brother, Dick, himself, for the record, an avid fan of musical theatre but not, per say, of the circus.  I told him about the show, he found a movie house close to where he lives in Utah, and got tickets for himself and his wife. Among his impressions:

“I enjoyed lots of things ... The cube contortion, very impressed, but inappropriate for the circus.  It dragged down the show ... I loved the quick dress changes, a wow! ... Theme did not relate to most of what we saw ... The clown act not up to standards of the show – was he ready to retire? ... Magic, is this circus? ...  The [risley] was long ... Aerial number pretty good, gal clunky ... By what I saw I would never go back to this show ...  Not anywhere as good as Ringling 20 years ago.”

Here is one of two 2-star reviews out of six reviews total that appear on Fandango:

“Was not impressed for the money I spent for a child and an adult.  Really thought that it could have been better. Not enough animals too much magic. Small children did not get it. “

Fifth Blunder: Where was the audience in the Big Apple tent itself?

My brother was left astonished by all the empty seats:   “You’re looking at a loser!”

There were even far more empty chairs in three movies houses that I know of.  In mine, besides myself, there were seven other people, and after intermission, only four.  My brother and his wife were the ONLY persons in the theatre.

 A  PA fan, who loved the show, wrote me that he was one of only two patrons in the house.  Which makes me wonder if the picture, above, which I found scrolling for appropriate images, might have been taken during a streaming of the show (or replay of the film) somewhere?  She does look like she is enjoying herself!

Somebody at BAC — what in the world do they spend their days DOING back there? —  should have packed that tent, even if they had to PAY people to attend.  Of all the moments to be asleep in the backyard!

It’s a pity we did not get to see a better Big Apple Circus.   But a godsend for the company that, apparently, so few people saw this rather depressing spectacle.   Damage control by Fate.

I remain dumbfounded.

They are now at Lincoln Center.  The photos I've seen on-line suggest a very lively show of many populist parts.  Pray it is.

To read Parts 1 and 2 of this series, in the search box above, top left, type "Big Apple Circus in Meltdown" 

Also see "momentous big top transfer: Minus Paul Binder"

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