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Cirque du Soleil's extravagant 'Iris' will close Jan. 19

Backers hoped the show would be a long-running tourist attraction at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The closing is attributed to disappointing ticket sales.

November 30, 2012|By David Ng and David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Cirque du Soleil's "Iris," a show that surveyed the history of filmmaking, will close Jan. 19 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood because of disappointing ticket sales.
Cirque du Soleil's "Iris," a show that surveyed the history… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

"Iris," the extravagant Cirque du Soleil show that backers hoped would be a long-running tourist attraction at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, will close Jan. 19 because of disappointing ticket sales.

Cirque du Soleil announced Friday that the demand for tickets to "Iris" had not "met expectations," but it declined to provide box office figures.

"Iris" opened in September 2011 at an estimated cost of nearly $100 million in production expenses and theater renovation, helped along by a $30-million loan from the city's Community Development Department to a partnership set up by the CIM Group, which owns the theater and the rest of the Hollywood & Highland Center.

PHOTOS: Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris'

The effect of the show's closing on Los Angeles was not immediately clear. Top executives at the Community Development Department, the agency that designed the loan, could not be reached. A representative of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is on a trade mission to South America, was not expected to have any comment until Monday.

A spokesman for City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who had championed the loan three years ago, said his boss was still trying to obtain details on the show's closure. But he noted that the loan was used to finance upgrades to the Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak.

"While disappointing, the theater can now be used year round instead of simply for Oscar night," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said. "And our understanding is that there has already been interest from people who want to stage events at the theater."

One of the few at City Hall to originally voice reservations about the deal was Councilman Dennis Zine, who questioned whether a single production should receive so much financial help.

On Friday, Zine said he wants to hear whether the city faces any financial fallout as a result of the "Iris" closure.

"We were assured at the time this was a good investment, that it was going to bring folks to the Hollywood area. So I find this very distressing," said Zine, who is running for city controller.

A spokeswoman for CIM said the group was unable to comment Friday evening. Shaul Kuba, a principal of the company, also declined to speak to a reporter.

"Iris" was one of the most ambitious productions in Cirque's history. Written and directed by Frenchman Philippe Decoufle with original music by the film composer Danny Elfman, the spectacle surveyed the history of movies from the silent era to the present day.

The Times' theater critic, Charles McNulty, wrote that "Iris" was "cunningly packaged with just enough daredevil razzmatazz to keep audiences from minding some of the goofy dead spots."

Tickets prices have fluctuated but are currently listed on Cirque's website as ranging from $43 to $133. Zine, who has attended Cirque du Soleil shows downtown and in Santa Monica, said he did not see or hear much advertising for the group's Hollywood production. He also questioned whether the ticket prices were too expensive for a region still recovering from a brutal recession.

"If you're going to take your wife and your kids [to the show] and you have dinner first, you're talking about a $500 evening, and a lot of people don't have that," he said.

Daniel Lamarre, Cirque's president and chief executive, told The Times shortly before "Iris" opened that "there are 18 million visitors every year walking in front of the theater, but they have nothing to do. So we hope we can capture those clientele, bring them in the seats and make this show last forever."

Lamarre couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Renee-Claude Menard of Cirque said by phone from Montreal that the company spent $50 million to $55 million to produce the show. She said the cost of renovating the theater, reported to be $40 million, was paid by the CIM Group. "We put a huge effort into marketing and overseas marketing, but nothing would tilt the needle," Menard said. "The L.A. market is not ready for a permanent show."

She declined to say how much money the company will lose on "Iris" because Cirque is exploring the possibility of taking the show to other cities. She declined to elaborate further.

The company said it will "redeploy as many of our artists and employees as possible to other Cirque du Soleil projects." "Iris" employed almost 70 performers along with 100 to 120 other individuals, including technicians and support staff.

"Iris" was to share the theater with only one other show, and for just a few weeks each year: The Academy Awards are presented at the Dolby.

david.ng@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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