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 BlundersFirst 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.
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
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.”
“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.
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"