Cirque du Soleil to exit Macau

HONG KONG: Canadian entertainment firm Cirque du Soleil will withdraw from a property owned by casino giant Las Vegas Sands' Macau unit, as the gaming hub struggles to diversify its economy.

Zaia, a 90-minute show at Sands China's Venetian featuring circus stunts, aerial ballet and light displays, was the first major attempt to turn Macau into a well-rounded tourist destination in the Las Vegas mould.

But it will stage its final performance on Sunday, following disappointing ticket sales, ending a 10-year contract just after three-and-a half years.

Beijing has urged Macau -- the only place in China where casino gambling is legal -- to diversify its economy but the world's top gaming centre has not succeeded in drawing visitors away from the baccarat tables.

The former Portuguese colony's gaming revenue soared 42 per cent in 2011 to a record $33.47 billion, about five to six times what gamblers are thought to have spent on the Las Vegas Strip, according to analysts.

But Cirque's public relations director Renee-Claude Menard told AFP Saturday that the early end of the contract shows "a challenge in transforming the actual positioning of Macau from a gaming economy to a destination economy".

Cirque's productions have been popular in the West and is known for its long-running shows in Las Vegas. The production of Zaia, which means "life" in Greek, cost US$150 million including a custom-built theatre.

- AFP/wk

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