Cirque Du Soleil: An Innovative Culture of Entertainment

By Ghazzawi, Issam A.; Martinelli-Lee, Teresa et al. | Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Cirque Du Soleil: An Innovative Culture of Entertainment


Ghazzawi, Issam A., Martinelli-Lee, Teresa, Palladini, Marie, Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies


CASE DESCRIPTION

Cirque du Soleil (French for Circus of the Sun) has remained one of the most successful theatrical producers in the history of the entertainment industry. It is a hybrid of circus, acrobatics, and dance performance. Today, the organization has blossomed to 5,000 employees, 1,300 are artists, on five continents. The case is how Cirque du Soleil manages organizational culture and teamwork in a challenging entertainment industry.

It is intended for class study and the application of concepts learned in the classroom and designed to complement knowledge derived from concepts in organizational culture and teamwork.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Despite early financial hardships, Cirque du Soleil (French for Circus of the Sun) has remained one of the most successful theatrical producers in the history of the entertainment industry. What started as a troupe of street performers in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, Canada named Les Echassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (French for the Wading Birds of Baie-Saint-Paul) has grown into a global entertainment business whose performances have been seen by over 100 million spectators in nearly 300 cities worldwide (Cirque du Soleil, 2013; Hoovers, 2013).

Cirque du Soleil is a hybrid of circus, acrobatics, and dance performance (Berry, Shankar, Parish, Cadwallader, & Dotzel, 2006). It is a multi-level production without the menagerie of exotic animals, yet is one that captures the magnificence of the human form, agility, and creativity. The performers toured the Canadian province of Quebec in the 1980s as a performing theatre troupe. Les Echassiers encountered financial setbacks that were relieved in 1983 when the government of Quebec extended a grant to the troupe as part of its 450th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada (Biography.com, 2013). In less than 30 years, the company had over 5,000 employees worldwide, including more than 1,000 artists, and redefined the circus industry (Hoovers, 2013). The company integrated street entertainment, eccentric costumes, and cabaret with its worldly performers and artistic shows, winning the hearts of millions of spectators worldwide.

While Daniel Gautier was the financial and production manager, Laliberte was responsible for all creative elements of productions and performances. Initially, Cirque employed only 73 people, yet by 2001, that number had grown to 2,100 employees worldwide, 500 of whom were performers (Hoovers, 2013). Between 1984 and 1989, Cirque performed only one show at a time. Today, the organization has blossomed to 5,000 employees, 1,300 are artists, on five continents (Cirque du Soleil, 2013). The productions are divided into groups designated as Resident and Touring. Resident indicates occupancy of one location, whereas Touring indicates visiting different cities. Cirque had eight Resident locations in Las Vegas and one in Orlando, Florida. The ten Touring productions can be found across five continents. Of these, five are under the Big Top and five are in arenas (Cirque du Soleil, 2013). The International Headquarters in Montreal is home to 2,000 employees, administration offices, creative laboratories, artisans, and expert performers.

As the company traveled across the U.S. and Europe, the success of the organization grew, but not without managerial and organizational disputes, including "artistic rebellions" and partnership clashes (DeLong & Vijayaraghavan, 2002). Furthermore, given that no global entertainment competitor is on par with Cirque du Soleil, the company has to make strategic decisions as it embarks on its third decade in business.

Cirque management was aware of the fact that whiles their high-end market disruption strategy, which shifted their competitive focus from head-to-head competition to the creation of a brand new entertainment industry. Cirque was also aware that this new market creation strategy might generate new players who may possibly compete for same scarce resources in the future and present new challenges. …

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