Cirque du Soleil movie aims to bring its Las Vegas shows to the masses
Anyone who’s seen one of Cirque du Soleil's shows knows that they are immersive, theatrical spectacles. Can 3-D movie glasses somehow help replicate that experience in a multiplex? The Montreal-based circus company — joining forces with director Andrew Adamson and executive producer James Cameron — believes the answer is yes.
Next year, Cirque du Soleil will introduce the first in what could be a series of feature films trying to translate the hugely successful stage shows into a new medium. Adamson, who directed the first two “Narnia” and “Shrek” movies, has assembled a script for and is well into shooting a narrative feature that will include sequences from all six Cirque du Soleil shows currently playing in Las Vegas: “O,” “Kà,” “Mystère,” “The Beatles Love,” “Zumanity” and “Viva Elvis.”
Cameron has shot some of the footage himself, and may operate an underwater camera when Adamson, now working on the film in New Zealand, returns to Las Vegas next month to film more performances. The film, budgeted at about $20 million in association with Reel FX Entertainment, does not yet have a theatrical distributor.
“I don’t want to make a commercial for Cirque du Soleil,” Adamson said in an interview. “I want to make a film that celebrates what Cirque does. It’s not a documentary. And, at the same time, it’s not a visual effects show. We are not going to remove the wires that the performers are flying on. What we are doing is celebrating an art form.”
He said that even patrons of past Cirque du Soleil performances will see things they have never seen before. “I wanted to give a very different perspective of Cirque, and put the audience at an angle they’ve never seen before. I think we’re able to take the audience into the show,” the director said. “You can focus on something you might otherwise not have noticed.”
For the parent company, the film poses a dilemma: It could help cultivate new audiences for its shows, bringing highlights to people who may live miles from (and have never visited) any Cirque du Soleil venue, or it could depress sales for the shows themselves. Tickets for the troupe’s live performances are as expensive as Broadway theater, with many tickets costing more than $100. Even with the 3-D surcharge in movie theaters, admissions for the now-untitled Cirque do Soleil movie will be a fraction of that.
“Some people here think it’s going to cannibalize [sales], and some think it’s going to do the opposite, and I’m one of [the latter],” said Jacques Méthé, a Cirque du Soleil executive producer who oversees its film, television, event and lifestyle division. “If you see the 3-D film, you’ll get a fabulous experience. In most instances, it will convince you that you need to see one of our shows.”
One of the more obvious challenges was how the filmmakers incorporated scenes from the R-rated “Zumanity” into a movie intended to play to family audiences. “We found a way,” Méthé said, “in a nice, elegant and perfectly PG way.”
-- John Horn
Photo: An act in Cirque du Soleil's "Zumanity." Credit: Philip Dixon