Cirque Acquires VStar Entertainment & Cirque Dreams

Cirque du Soleil announced on Thursday, July 5th, the acquisition of Minnesota-based VStar Entertainment Group and its Florida-based circus arts subsidiary Cirque Dreams.

From the press release: The addition of VStar Entertainment Group to its portfolio allows the Montreal creative powerhouse to expand its audiences with plug-and-play creative content specifically designed for children and families. With its integrated live entertainment platform and broad global distribution network in small theaters, the acquisition of VStar and Cirque Dreams will contribute to further establishing Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group as the world leader in live entertainment for audiences of all ages.

“Building on the successful integration of Blue Man Group over the last year, today we are taking another decisive step towards realizing our ambition. While circus arts will always be at the core of our creative offering, we continue to look for ways to expand and diversify our portfolio with new forms of entertainment and new brands, reaching new audiences and expanding our own creative and production capabilities”, said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. “VStar Entertainment Group has a proven track record and recognized expertise in small theatrical production, which complements Cirque du Soleil’s expertise in large-scale production and global touring. We firmly believe the knowledge transfer will help us develop our own capabilities in this type of entertainment and therefore, contribute to growing our footprint in the live entertainment production industry.”

VStar Entertainment Group is a live entertainment provider producing theatrical shows, exhibits, cruise ship shows and outdoor events. VStar is best known for its children and family shows showcasing popular brands from Nickelodeon and Spin Master, such as PAW Patrol. Over nearly four decades, it has built an impressive footprint in the global entertainment industry, presenting over 39,000 performances in more than 40 countries, reaching over two million guests annually. On its own, PAW Patrol Live “Race to the Rescue” toured in 250 cities in 18 countries on 4 different continents in 2017.

“VStar has a history of growing through partnerships with great entertainment brands and we are always on the lookout for the next transformative opportunity. We now find ourselves on the brink of our next chapter and only a global producer like Cirque du Soleil could help us achieve our vision. Their expertise in the live entertainment industry is unparalleled and it is an honour to join forces with their organization”, said Eric Grilly, CEO of VStar Entertainment Group.

Cirque Dreams, founded by Broadway Director Neil Goldberg and established in Florida, is the entertainment group’s circus arts division which successfully produces and operates tours and shows in theatres and various popular touristic venues through partnerships with Norwegian Cruise Line and Gaylord Hotels, among other business to business opportunities. “I have always admired the creative forces behind Cirque du Soleil and could not wish for a better partner to continue developing Cirque Dreams. I look forward to contributing my creative mindset to the company’s evolution”, added Cirque Dreams President Neil Goldberg.

* * *

Lamarre said Cirque Dreams’ expertise in the production of shows in theatres and tourism hot spots will help broaden the Cirque du Soleil’s portfolio. “The Cirque sells about 13 million tickets a year,” Lamarre said. “Our acquisitions since last year have added another four million to our sales.”

While terms were not disclosed, Mr. Lamarre said the transaction is worth “several million dollars.”

The deal puts Cirque du Soleil in third place in the live entertainment industry after Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. as the circus arts company seeks to diversify its production and expand globally. “Which, in terms of position, is great because we think there is room for someone to consolidate the live entertainment market,” Lamarre said. “And we’re seeing ourselves as that consolidator.”

And the Cirque hasn’t finished diversifying.

“We have an amazing distribution machine, touring in 450 cities around the world with each show that we develop,” he said. “This distribution machine can distribute more than just Cirque. We want to be able to be in a market for as long as possible. That’s why we’re looking for shows that are different from the ones we currently have in our portfolio.”

Cirque du Soleil is already one of the world’s biggest live entertainment producers, offering shows in 450 cities every year, and Lamarre says the Blue Man Group has increased its international presence thanks to the backing of the Cirque distribution network. He believes the same thing will happen with the VStar properties.

“It’s a new era because our new owners have the resources that help us accelerate our growth. Our strategy is very clear — to develop more and more new markets around the world and also at the same time to bring new artistic content, which is all good news for Montreal because we’re creating jobs and you have an organization based here that is growing at a rapid pace that makes it exciting for all of our employees, including myself. For our artists, it means more creative challenges.”

“For us, it’s clearly an entry into the world of children’s shows. Obviously, a lot of families are coming to Cirque du Soleil shows, but we have never targeted kids specifically and with VStar, that’s their specialty. They have an amazing partnership with Nickelodeon … the most popular property is PAW Patrol. I didn’t know that much about it until I spoke to my grandkids. It’s a huge franchise for kids. So we think there is great potential with them and with their kids’ expertise to expand all the kids’ properties we can acquire together and distribute internationally. My grandkids love it, so I will be a hero with my grandkids when I tell them.”

VStar’s Cirque Dreams is specialized in the tourist business, with cruise shows and productions at Gaylord Hotels and in small theatres across the U.S. With this diversification, some fear the Cirque may stray from its main mandate of producing artsy circus shows, but that is not the case, Lamarre says.

“We are going to produce more Cirque du Soleil shows than ever before,” Lamarre said. “So the core business remains a very important development axe of our business. We have a lot going on in China, we have new shows in development. The mandate we have from our new owners is to become the global leader of live entertainment and in order to do that, if you don’t want to put too much pressure on the core business, it’s by adding other types of content to acquire new audiences.”

The Cirque used to produce one new show a year, which meant they usually had two new shows in the pipeline at any given time. Now the circus is producing three new shows a year, which means they have about 10 productions in different phases of development now.

# # #

About VStar Entertainment Group

VStar Entertainment Group is a leading entertainment company and producer of unforgettable live experiences for audiences in the U.S. and internationally. From concept through activation, VStar imagines and creates custom tours featuring original content, and licensed, branded tours that provide highly engaging entertainment for fans of all ages. With nearly four decades of expertise in all aspects of event production and management, VStar delivers turnkey, in-house solutions for theatrical shows, interactive exhibits and brand activations. VStar also creates custom-fabricated mascots and costumes, large-scale sets, scenery and 3-D installations, serving as a valued resource for professional sports teams, Fortune 500 companies and experiential marketing agencies. Headquartered in Minneapolis, VStar has presented more than 39,000 live performances across 40 countries, and entertains nearly two million guests annually. Current VStar tours include PAW Patrol Live! Bubble Guppies Live, Cirque Dreams and Discover the Dinosaurs: Time Trek. Previous VStar (formerly VEE Corporation) productions include Sesame Street Live, Barney, Bear in the Big Blue House, Curious George, Dragon Tales, and Kidz Bop Live! For more information, visit

About Cirque Dreams

Since 1993, Cirque Dreams has integrated a robust knowledge platform combining theatre, circus arts and imagination into quality family entertainment and shows for Broadway, Norwegian Cruise Line, Gaylord Hotels, Armed Forces Entertainment, theatre tours, theme parks, casinos and venues worldwide. Popular titles include Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Cirque Dreams Holidaze and Cirque Dreams Unwrapped. For more information, visit

Interestingly, in December 1999, Cirque du Soleil sued Florida-based Cirque Inc. in federal court accusing the company of trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition practices. Cirque du Soleil’s claim was that Cirque Inc.’s productions were too similar and confused patrons by using the moniker “Cirque”. Cirque Inc. disagreed with this view, arguing that “Cirque”, which means “circus” in French, was a generic term and therefore not subject to trademark. The motion brought by Cirque du Soleil was denied and the court therefore ruled that Cirque du Soleil could not lay claim to the term “Cirque”, which the company felt had become synonymous with its brand and a protectable trademark. Cirque du Soleil appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in April 2004, but Cirque du Soleil lost the appeal. And now, fifteen years later, they own the company they once sued.

{ SOURCES: Cirque du Soleil, PRNewswire, Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, Bloomberg, Deadline }