CDS is using AI and high-tech theaters to move into its next era

For nearly 40 years now, the mad scientists at Cirque Du Soleil have developed more than 50 different shows, ranging from the dreamlike (such as Saltimbanco) to artist-centric (like The Beatles Love or Michael Jackson: One).

They’re tour de forces for imaginative artistry. As Cirque nears its fourth decade, however, having just barely survived the pandemic, the organization is looking to expand its footprint, while using tech to rethink the ways it comes up with new shows.

“We feel very energized that tech is a part of who we are and we want to be more pronounced moving forward in showcasing those things,” says Nickole Tara, chief growth officer at Cirque du Soleil. In fact, Tara argues, the company is, at its heart, as much a tech firm as it is an entertainment experience.

Six months ago, Cirque entered the video game space, with a tycoon-style offering on Roblox, which has since racked up four million gameplays, with an average session of 13 minutes (an eternity for the Roblox user). And the February launch of Apple’s Vision Pro will include a licensed 3D version of Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away, the James Cameron-produced film from 2012.

“That movie was before its time,” Tara says. “3D movies weren’t a thing. That was the tip of the spear. And that’s illustrative to how Cirque has always been. We’re first to things, sometimes way before consumers are ready for it.”
Incorporating AI

Perhaps the biggest change Tara is juggling, though, is the incorporation of artificial intelligence into Cirque’s operations. While show creators remain firmly in charge, the company has been looking at how it can incorporate AI into the creative process.

“Our creative teams use it . . . as a tool in their creation rooms,” Tara says. “They utilize it to mood board in a way that’s more efficient. It used to take a day to render images and now it takes minutes.”

Incorporating AI, argues Tara, doesn’t mean the company will lose the emotional connection that’s so crucial to Cirque’s success. It is, instead, a way to speed the creative process along, while still making the show the producers envision.

“A partner asked me if we would ever consider creating a show through AI,” says Tara. “I asked our creative guide and our chief production officers and they were like ‘Of course we want to experiment with that.’ In the end, you’re holding the controls. If something doesn’t iterate the way you think it should go, you just redirect the iteration.”
Moving beyond the stage

While Cirque recently debuted a new traveling show (Echo) and is about to roll out a new fixed show at the Outrigger Waikiki in Hawaii later this year, it’s also moving to a new sort of venue.

The company has partnered with Cosm, a media company that plans to build a series of dome theaters (opening initially in Los Angeles this spring, then Dallas) to create larger-than-life experiences.

Cirque just wrapped up the capture of one of its Las Vegas shows in a 12K format, which will be shown on a 180-degree screen. The idea is to tap into a new audience, perhaps one that can’t (or is unwilling to) afford the price of a ticket to a Cirque show.

The company hopes that after seeing the expansive cinematic version, those people might be more open to seeing a live show.

“We’ve got some exciting things we put into motion in 2023 and are coming out in 2023, but it’s largely experimental,” says Tara. “We’re learning in real time. We feel like [projects like collaborations with Cosm] grow the IP in a very meaningful way.”

{ SOURCE: Fast Company }