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Big Apple Circus files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

By Allen Cone
Big Apple Circus files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Triplets Nicholas, Leonardo and Esteban Argel, all 10, of Arlington, Va., (L to R) who were born premature and blind, touch the spiky hair of Big Apple Circus performer "Bello" as their fourth-grade teacher Mary Kakareka watches March 10, 2010. Big Apple Circus announced Monday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, four months after canceling its 2016-17 season. File photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Big Apple Circus has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, four months after canceling its 2016-17 season, court documents filed Monday indicate.

The non-profit group based in New York plans to sell its assets, including its storage and training facilities in Walden, N.Y., a court filing announced. Big Apple Circus intends to continue operating some community programs and transition them to other not-for-profit organizations. The bankruptcy filing allows the group to restart the Big Apple Circus' one-ring show with new financial support or through a sale to an interested buyer.

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Its assets were worth roughly $3.8 million and debts are estimated at $8.3 million.

A "Save the Circus" fundraising drive started in June failed to bring enough revenue to save the circus. It received contributions from more than 1,400 donors.

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The group hopes a new non-profit operator can continue its community outreach programs for deaf, blind and autistic children called Clown Care, including hospital visits.

Paul Binder and Michael Christensen founded the Big Apple Circus in 1977.

At its peak in 2008, Big Apple Circus brought in revenue of more than $18 million from a 350-plus show performance schedule at its home at Lincoln Center in New York and on tour. But interest in circuses, clowns and private performances declined.

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The organization noted a competing not-for-profit hospital clown outreach program formed in June took away business.

"We are eternally grateful for the support provided by audiences and donors over almost 40 years, and to all of the artists, crew, staff, and Clown Doctors who have provided joy, wonder, and inspiration to so many," Big Apple Circus executive director Will Maitland Weiss said in a statement. "We are working to ensure that the spirit of the Big Apple Circus will live on."

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