Game's up as circus spectacular ends early
Its gaming tables may be making more money than those of Las Vegas but Macau's attempts to position itself as an all-round entertainment destination have taken a severe blow after Cirque Du Soleil failed to draw the crowds to the Venetian Macao.
The avant-garde circus troupe, a massive hit in the United States, will hold its last performance next Sunday at the Sands-owned casino resort, amid reports that just 40 per cent of seats at the 1,800 seat purpose-built theatre had been filled for many shows.
A spokeswoman for the Venetian Macao denied poor ticket sales were to blame for the decision to end the multimillion-dollar partnership just three years into a 10-year agreement.
'We have conducted market research recently and it has shown customer demand for more alternative entertainment options,' she said. She would not say whether a cancellation fee had been paid.
When the show opened in mid-2008, Cirque president Daniel Lamarre said the idea was to create 'destination shows' where tourists would visit Macau specifically for a performance, as in Las Vegas.
Sands China spent more than US$100 million building the theatre and the venue will now be redesigned to offer more entertainment options, the spokeswoman said.
Sudhir Kale, a marketing consultant for Macau casinos including City of Dreams and Star World, said importing Vegas-style shows would not work for at least another decade because most Macau visitors were only interested in gambling.
'It's hard to believe that Macau will ever become as diversified a tourist attraction as Vegas or even Singapore because the pent-up demand for gambling products is far too high in China,' he said.
David Green, founder of gambling regulation firm Newpage Consulting, said the issue was the visitor mix to Macau.
'We've still got a significant proportion of people coming to Macau to gamble, eat and maybe get a massage, not to be entertained,' he said.
But a spokesman for Melco Crown Entertainment's City of Dreams said ticket sales for its House of Dancing Water show continued to be strong, with more than 90 per cent of tickets sold for most performances.
He said the 'Chinese-inspired spectacular' had resulted in more people visiting its casinos and hotels.