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Cirque du Soleil ties Asia expansion to Macau

HONG KONG, Sept 2 — Canadian global entertainment brand Cirque du Soleil plans to use its current ZAIA showcase in Macau as a “springboard” to further its Asian ambitions, president and CEO Daniel Lamarre told Reuters in an exclusive interview in Hong Kong.

Lamarre said the Montreal-based entertainment company — which produces travelling and permanent shows that mix acrobatics, street entertainment, music, dramatic lighting and costumes in a narrative thread — will seek to bring more touring shows to Asia and establish permanent venues in China, India and other countries around the region.

“Macau now the way it’s developing is attracting a lot of clientele not only (from) mainland China but now we’re seeing more and more people coming from India and other countries and I think it will help establish our brand not only in this neighbourhood but across all of Asia and that’s the plan, that’s the strategy,” Lamarre said.

Artists perform during a ZAIA show in Macau in this handout released to Reuters on September 2, 2011. — Reuters picArtists perform during a ZAIA show in Macau in this handout released to Reuters on September 2, 2011. — Reuters picThe Cirque is now touring in more than 350 cities around the world, including Osaka in Japan, and will be coming to Shanghai by the end of September. But Macau is as key to its Asian strategy as Las Vegas is in North America.

The island — which was a Portuguese colony and is now one of two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China — is gradually developing into a wider gambling and entertainment hub in an evolution that mirrors the Cirque’s nearly two decades of experience in Las Vegas, Lamarre said.

He said gambling probably accounts for 90 per cent of Macau’s activities right now, but expects it to follow the Vegas model where he says gambling has lost its dominance of the city’s attractions and entertainment is huge.

“So that’s why we’re here, to help develop the entertainment business not only in Macau but in all of China,” he said.

Cirque du Soleil’s immediate goal is to maintain ZAIA as a flagship showcase in Macau, and will have the potential to grow into multiple shows per day. Vegas now features seven shows a day — excluding Cirque du Soleil’s upcoming Michael Jackson show in October.

“We hope to have three permanent shows in Macau one day and I see a day where we can have a permanent show in big Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing and who knows,” Lamarre said.

But first, Lamarre said, the Cirque planned to begin regularly touring key cities in China in the next 18 months with a view to establishing permanent shows within four years and spreading out across Asia.

“We’ve been to Shanghai once, we’ve never been to Beijing.”

He intends to follow a similar strategy in India and elsewhere in Asia.

“For India right now, it’s the same as China, it’s establishing a touring show first then it will probably take four years before we have such a strong presence that we can contemplate having a permanent show (in New Delhi and Mumbai).”

In addition, he said Cirque du Soleil wants to build on its positive experiences from previous tours in other Asian cities such as Seoul, Taipei and Manila.

“We started in Korea a few years back and we have become a very, very important brand in that country.” — Reuters

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