Ringling Bros. Circus to End

Officials with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have announced that the circus will close down in May of 2017. They cited declining ticket sales, operating costs, and changes in audience taste as the reasons. The circus was a combination of several earlier circuses that merged, with the oldest going back 146 years.

The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn't have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.

Cost aside, audiences decided that carting wild animals from town to town for live performances is not right, clowns are scary, and its easier to watch other acts on video. However, more modern traveling live shows such as Cirque de Soleil continue to draw audiences. -via reddit

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