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Family Entertainment

giving him great confidence in the prospects of the arena spin-off. “I think you have to have confidence in Batman, which has almost 100% brand awareness around the world,” he says. “The only thing we can really fall down on is whether we do a good show or not, but Batman has never been presented as a live show before, so obviously there are great expectations. We are trying to do something unpredictable.”

Superheroes

are a new addition in the annals of family entertainment, where new ideas are gold but are similarly hard to find. Old ideas can be gold too – or at least, old brands can, as Cirque du Soleil, Harlem Globetrotters and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) continually demonstrate. Alongside them run other favourites such as Feld Entertainment’s Disney On Ice, Disney Live and Ringling Bros. Circus, and Stage Entertainment’s Holiday On Ice, which launched a new ice show, Tropicana, in Hamburg at the beginning of November, destined to follow its predecessor Energia out on a three- to fouryear world tour in due course. The Amsterdam-based company also had a family show, The Nutcracker on Ice, debuting in Moscow at almost exactly the same time. Meanwhile, other stalwarts keep forging forward. Jeff Munn, executive vice-president and COO of Harlem Globetrotters International reports a bumper year of endorsement deals and brand extensions. The team’s 2010 North American tour grossed the highest tour revenue in its history, setting 73 local box office records and drawing more than two million fans for the third straight year. Able to field two or three full teams at any given time, the Globetrotters has visited 120 different territories and draw around 25% of its revenue from merchandising. Munn says neither the global exploration nor the healthy merch business show signs of flagging. “We continue to explore more every year,” he says. “Fortunately, we have the capability of being flexible with regard to our venue. We can play our typical arenas or play outdoors, and we’ve even played in more nontraditional locations such as bullrings, on dirt, on a beach – even on the decks of active aircraft carriers.” World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) could have used an aircraft carrier when two productions very nearly fell foul of the Icelandic ash cloud that grounded Europe in May, but otherwise the perennial favourite has continued to grow. New territories in 2010 included Costa Rica, where the show played to 20,000 unexpectedly rabid fans in a soccer stadium, and Beijing, where they featured as part of the Shanghai Expo. “The odd thing about going into China is you are going in blind, because you don’t really know what you are going into,” says Denis Sullivan, VP live event booking. “But we were

blown away by the response, absolutely blown away.” The Shanghai Expo’s policy of selling tickets only to walk-up customers on the very day of the show added a further frisson to the occasion, he recalls. “I was at the box office when they started the ticket distribution, and when 10 o’clock came and they opened the gates, we were just descended on by a sea of people coming for the show,” says Sullivan. “It sold out – 8,000 tickets – in an hour.”

Even

when you know the market, family entertainment makes audiences move in a significantly different way to rock ‘n’ roll shows. “It is a different crowd, so you have to use different marketing tools and promotional ideas,” says Marton Brady, managing director of Hungarian promoter ShowTime, whose recent family events include Abba The Show. Brady points to ShowTime’s chart of its most popular familytargeted shows, which reveals recent years have seen fairly healthy returns, though it also bears out the general sense that record-breaking blockbusters aren’t quite as easy to come by as they were a few years ago. There are also those keen to point out that the slump of recent years has weeded out the copycats and many weaker competitors, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of Irish step dance. Rhythm of the Dance celebrates its 12th birthday in March and sells 300,000400,000 tickets a year. The show’s executive producer, Kieran Cavanagh at KCP Productions, says: “At one stage I counted 21 professional shows touring around the world. That’s saturation. Now it’s settled down to about six or seven. It’ll never be like it was from 1995 to 2000 when Riverdance was setting the world on fire, but it’s certainly at a respectable level again.” “The quality shows have retained a position in the marketplace and continued,” adds Michael Durkin, executive producer of Gaelforce Dance and new addition Dancemaster: The Best of Irish Dance. “Every time someone says it’s on the way out, another promoter picks it up and it gets stronger than ever.” Eli Casanova of Barcelona-based booking agency

Above: WWE

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