For the first time in its 34-year history, Cirque du Soleil has made a significant investment in the family market for live entertainment, acquiring Minneapolis-based VStar Entertainment Group.
Through licenses with companies including Nickelodeon and Spin Master, VStar produces shows such as a stage version of long-running animated hit PAW Patrol. The deal also includes VStar’s Florida subsidiary Cirque Dreams, which specializes in spectacles customized for tourist venues, with partnerships in place with Norwegian Cruise Line and Gaylord Hotels, among others.
Terms were not disclosed. Cirque du Soleil is privately held.
The deal follows Cirque’s move about a year ago to acquire the Blue Man Group. In an interview with Deadline, president and CEO Daniel Lamarre said the Blue Man and VStar acquisitions stem from a recent shift in strategy. While “circus arts will always be at the core of our creative offering,” Lamarre said, the company is widening the tent beyond Cirque’s premium, home-grown productions.
“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.” Blue Man Group and VStar shows will retain their own branding and their new ownership structure will not be emphasized to the audience. (The official press released described the acquisition as “plug and play.”) Some efficiencies in terms of shared resources and talent would be explored, Lamarre said, though he added it was premature to offer specifics.
VStar, formerly Vee Corp., has backed shows like Sesame Street Live, Barney and Kidz Bop Live. Over its nearly four-decade lifespan, the company has mounted 39,000 performances in more than 40 countries, drawing more than two million people a year. PAW Patrol Live‘s latest iteration, Race to the Rescue, toured in 250 cities in 18 countries 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,” said Eric Grilly, CEO of VStar. “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.”