- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

ELLENTON, Fla. (AP) - Feld Entertainment remains committed to live performances in spite of its decision to permanently close the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in May, company leaders said Monday.

The Ellenton-based, privately held company also owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Universe Live, among other things, and those tours are thriving, said Juliette Feld, the company’s chief operating officer.

The other tours have sustained audience interest because of links to television series, toys and licensed merchandise, and other offerings that the circus lacked as a stand-alone live event, Feld said.

However, those other businesses have learned from the connections the circus made with its fans for many years, she said.

“The legacy of Ringling Bros. will exist in that it has infused all other live entertainment, and it was the foundation not just of our company but also live entertainment in America,” Feld told reporters at a news conference at the company’s headquarters.

When Feld Entertainment broke the news about Ringling’s closure to its employees Saturday night, officials cited falling ticket sales, high operating costs and changing public tastes in entertainment.

The company, which has owned the circus for 50 years, also had faced prolonged battles with animal rights groups. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, quickly claimed victory after the circus’ closure was announced, but CEO and chairman Kenneth Feld said there were no winners in a decision that would put over 400 people out of work.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for everyone involved,” he said.

In May, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed its iconic elephants from circus shows and sent them to live on a conservation farm in central Florida.

“We have seen a downward trend in attendance over 10 years,” Juliette Feld said, adding the company’s efforts to boost ticket sales failed. “Last year, after we retired the elephants from the touring units, we saw a much steeper drop in sales.”

Suitable homes are being sought for the circus animals that remained on tour, said Kenneth Feld, who also is Juliette Feld’s father.

“That covers lions, tigers, horses, camels, llamas - all the animals that are in the show that our company actually owns,” he said.

Costumes, set pieces and other artifacts from the circus’ history will continue to be preserved, Kenneth Feld.

Feld Entertainment will work with the circus’ performers to help them with job placement and housing relocation at the end of Ringling’s 146-year run in May, the company’s chief operating officer, Juliette Feld said.

Tickets are still available for the last circus shows through May 21, Kenneth Feld said.

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