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Cirque du Soleil Swings Into Children, Family Market by Acquiring MN-Based VStar Entertainment

VStar’s operations will remain here as an “autonomous division” of the circus arts giant.

Cirque du Soleil Swings Into Children, Family Market by Acquiring MN-Based VStar Entertainment
Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has acquired Fridley-based VStar Entertainment Group and its Florida-based subsidiary Cirque Dreams. Terms of the deal, which was announced Thursday, were not disclosed.
 
The deal is part of a drive by Cirque du Soleil, best known for its elaborate “circus art” shows, to expand and diversify its portfolio of live entertainment offerings. The deal closed on July 3.
 
The deal brings VStar under Cirque du Soleil’s corporate big top. Cirque du Soleil started as a group of 20 street performers in 1984. Today it’s a large global entertainment operation with 4,000 employees and a wide array of touring productions and “resident show” performances based in cities such as Las Vegas.
 
Cirque du Soleil president and CEO Daniel Lamarre was in the Twin Cities on Thursday to announce the deal and meet employees with Eric Grilly, CEO of VStar.
 
“I was here in Minnesota because that was very, very important for me to have the opportunity to meet with the entire team here,” Lamarre told Twin Cities Business. “They’re going to be a very important part of the growth of Cirque du Soleil Group in the future.”
 
Lamarre said that Grilly will continue to lead VStar’s operations, which will remain based in Minnesota. He said that he’s hopeful that growth will ultimately drive the company to add more jobs in Minnesota. VStar currently has about 120 employees, while Cirque Dreams has an additional 30 employees.
 
“This will be run as an autonomous division within the Cirque du Soleil family,” said Lamarre.
 
VStar’s forte is shows aimed at children and families. Its Paw Patrol Live production “Race to the Rescue” toured to 250 cities in 18 countries in 2017. “Paw Patrol” is a Canadian animated series which airs on Nickelodeon network in the U.S. and is produced by Spin Master Entertainment, a Toronto-based toy company. VStar’s previous productions include the long-running Sesame Street Live.
 
“The real play for us…is our entry in the kids and family business,” said Lamarre.

Last year Cirque du Soleil acquired the New York-based Blue Man Productions, known for its Blue Man Group shows. Like Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man started small and grew to offer shows in several cities in addition to touring performances.
 
The privately-held Cirque du Soleil does not disclose its revenue. Lamarre said that Cirque du Soleil sells about 13 million tickets per year across the globe. Blue Man Group has added another 2 million in annual ticket sales. Lamarre says that VStar will be a comparable addition to Cirque du Soleil’s portfolio.


A recent production of "Paw Patrol." (Photo courtesy of VStar Entertainment Group)
 
“We think that the same logic applies here for VStar,” said Lamarre, who noted that VStar’s productions will add an additional 2 million annual ticket sales bringing the company’s total sales to 17 million tickets per year.
 
VStar’s Cirque Dreams unit does circus arts shows, but at smaller theaters than Cirque du Soleil.
 
“They’re very good at aiming to the tourist market through Norwegian Cruise Line and through Gaylord Hotels,” said Lamarre of Cirque Dreams.
 
Despite the name, Lamarre said that there was no previous connection between Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Arts. “Cirque” is simply the French word for “circus.”
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