Jeff Apregan, Venue Coalition; Ryan Jones, WME; David Pitman, Cirque du Soleil; Barbara Pinneke Cooley, InHouse Booking; Mike Mills, Mills Entertainment; Andriana Magness, VStar Entertainment Group; and Casey Gray, Harlem Globetrotters.
REPORTING FROM TAMPA, FLA. — Ice Age on Ice is dead to North America. While the Stage Entertainment-production continues to do good business in the U.K., it never gained traction in North America, closing last week following a date in Canada, said Jeff Apregan, Apregan Entertainment Group and Venue Coalition.
He delivered that news at IAVM’s Arena Management Conference here Sept. 18-21, a meet attended by more than 200 members and sponsors. Ice Age opened in London, Ontario, Canada, at Budweiser Gardens in August and did not draw well, while sales were soft as well. Apregan said it had been on sale in Regina, Saskatoon, Grand Prairie, Lethbridge and Prince George, Canada, and he was booking the U.S. portion of the tour.
Then the movie debut also bombed in North America. “It was a big investment and a huge global brand, but the movie came and went in a hurry,” Apregan said. “Last week we pulled the tour. It continues to be successful in China and other territories.”
Apregan kicked off a panel on nonmusical bookings, saying the good news was that Nitro Circus, which first started playing North American venues in 2012, is doing well. While Nitro Circus is targeted to action sports, it has a broad family appeal, Apregan said. Its 10th anniversary tour in 2018 will take it indoors again after a couple of years of outdoor dates.
Casey Gray, Harlem Globetrotters, updated managers on the family show’s headquarters move from Phoenix to Atlanta after being purchased by the Herschend family, which also owns theme parks like Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
A few executives did not make the move, Gray said, but the organization has regrouped and is moving forward. The Moneyball program, which awards a special ball to venues that post record box office sales has proven quite successful, with 258 Moneyballs presented in the last three years, Gray said.
WME’s Ryan Jones also talked about a new corporate structure with WME merged with IMG. “The touring department is extremely healthy,” Jones said, citing several successful shows, including: The Illusionists, Circus 1903, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Professional Bull Riders and Young Voices. WME/IMG is also very involved in e-sports, he added,, with a league in Florida training right now. “We are also a heavy investor in virtual reality,” Jones said. “Fan experiences will change.”
The Illusionists, seven illusionists who set records on Broadway and will go back to Broadway this September, are a performing arts center play right now as a subscription series event. But by 2017 and beyond, they will be playing arenas, he predicted.
Circus 1903 is a new show from the creator of the Illusionists. It will start in theaters and end up in arenas. It involves puppetry and an end-stage setup, sort of a theatrical circus.
Young Voices is huge in the U.K., Jones continued. It involves 4,500-8,000 kids in choirs, which form and rehearse in school choir programs. Therefore, it has a built-in audience of family members. Its success depends on a strong relationship with schools.
VStar is also undergoing a management transition, VEE Corp. was bought by Blue Star a year ago and the two companies were merged as VStar, with a new CEO. Andriana Magness, booking director, said Sesame Street Live, its flagship brand, is in its 37th season, having sold 47 million tickets to 28,000 performances. VStar also produces a USO tour, in its 10th year, and Discover the Dinosaurs Unleashed, a walk-through exposition which was originally a Blue Star property.
VStar’s newest tour, Paw Patrol Live, debuts in the U.S. this October and V-Star will put 113 performances on sale in 29 markets.
Mike Mills, Mills Entertainment, calls his a portfolio company reflective of pop culture. They were packaging reality TV stars 10 years ago. Today they look to YouTube stars, very few of whom will reach arena-show status, but some have. Theresa Caputo began touring in 2012 and will do 70 dates a year. She is on her way to arena dates.
Other Mills shows include Bring It Live, based on a show seen on Lifetime TV, which has strong affinity groups and sold out Chicago Theater and Kings Theater in Brooklyn. It’s coming back next year.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live will tour through early 2018, Mills said.
On the YouTube front, he is championing Lilly Singh, the Dolan Twins and Roman vs. Fousey. Let’s Play Live starts in spring 2017.
Mills is also enthusiastic about a concept called Firehouse Festival, which combines 6-8 digital tours and will play arenas. It starts in spring 2017. The combined stars will draw 5,000-10,000 attendance, he said.
In-House Booking’s Barbara Pinnake Cooley cited 12 shows on the roster, half of which are appropriate for cutdown arenas of 2,000-plus seats. The shows are affordable, traveling in two trucks or less.
Highlights include Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, in its third year and now booking its fourth. The 90-minute production will play three weeks at Madison Square Garden Theater over the holidays and sales to date are tracking 20 percent better than Elf did by this time last year, Pinnake Cooley said. It grossed $108,000 over several shows at Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.
A Hip Hop Nutcracker is another show Pinneke Cooley believes will be perfect for arenas. Most of 2016 holiday dates are repeating from last year at performing arts centers, she added.
A Night with Janis Joplin, a full theatrical event, goes out in fall of 2017, and Let It Be, A Celebration for the Music of the Beatles, an arena concert show which cut its chops on the West End in London and Broadway, is set to hit the road next year. Dancing in the Streets, hits from the Motown stable of acts, will tour in 2017-18, Pinneke Cooley said.
“The Amazing Tour Is Not on Fire” played 39 markets in the states and does amazing per caps, up to $17.50, she concluded. “We’re working on trying to bring something back.”
Cirque du Soleil will have two new arena shows, for a total of five, on the road worldwide by the fourth quarter of next year, said Cirque’s Dave Pittman. One, a new show being created now, will debut in arenas under the Cirque brand. It is the third show Cirque has produced specifically for arenas and not for the Big Top first, but the first that does not have a third-party tie (Michael Jackson and Avatar).
Interviewed for this story: Jeff Apregan, (805) 494-0020; Casey Gray, (678) 497-1900; Ryan Jones, (310) 285-9000; Andriana Magness, (612) 378-2561; Mike Mills, (323) 741-5200; Barbara Pinneke Cooley, InHouse Booking, (951) 990-2039; Dave Pittman, (703) 898-5015