Good or bad, Cirque sets pace on discounts

Cirque du Soleil doesn’t appear to be packing up and leaving Las Vegas anytime soon. So the next best hope of all the smaller shows in town is that the Strip’s dominant producer will be really, wildly successful.

As in, able to sell “Ka” tickets for the full face value of $175. And sell them out fast, with no discounts.

There once was a day when Cirque didn’t need the walk-up discounter Tix4Tonight, whose booths line the Strip. And if it did, the handful of tickets released each day would vanish well before the lines did, causing those further back to ask, “Well, what else do you have?”

Not this summer. At the Four Queens Tix4Tonight booth last week, you could score a “Ka” ticket for $99 or $141 (before taxes and the company’s service charge). Or “Mystere” at $78 or $87, and “Criss Angel: Believe” at $79 or $93 (“Zarkana,” “Zumanity” and “Love” also are on the board, but weren’t performing that day).

If you’d rather plan ahead, Travelzoo listed about 20 shows last week, including “Love” tickets for $55 to $105. Or if you want to take the discount in soft money, there are “Mystere” and “Zarkana” seats on restaurant.com for $78, including a $50 “egift card” good at participating eateries.

These aren’t extreme examples of discounting, and there’s no sense in rehashing the old wish that everyone would just cut to the chase and set a reasonable price without the “mark ’em up to mark ’em down” games.

But if Cirque gets the sniffles, the other shows get a cold. “When Cirque’s price falls below a certain threshold, it makes it a lot harder for anyone else to compete,” says one of the “little guy” producers. He compared notes with some colleagues who agreed this May was 10 percent to 25 percent worse than May of 2013.

So if you want to find the real deals, go back to Tix4Tonight for $41 “Vegas Nocturne” tickets, or back to Travelzoo for $36 Terry Fator seats and $20 tickets for “Legends in Concert.”

If there is a collective decline in our traditional shows, you can line up the usual suspects beyond those ridiculous face-value ticket prices: The booming nightclub industry, hefty service charges by vendors such as Ticketmaster, and the fact that there are just too many shows, period.

But if Cirque as market leader (with close to 120,000 seats to sell on the Strip every week) can cause you-know-what to roll downhill, the company also is in the strongest position to test new models and explore new solutions.

On June 29, “Michael Jackson One” moves the 9:30 p.m. show to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. It’s just one day for one title, but a curious test for a year-old show not yet listed at the other discounters.

“We feel that there are times we need to do these things and re-evaluate what we’re doing, and test new things,” says Lou D’Angeli, Cirque’s marketing executive for its resident shows. “As a company we’re always trying to expand our reach and our demo, and I think an afternoon show may help us do that.”

It’s not an issue of trying to stay clear of the clubs, he says. Cirque’s 9:30 p.m. shows are over by 11:15 p.m. when the clubs are just heating up.

And he says it’s not a sales issue for “the newest, hottest” of Cirque’s Las Vegas titles. “This is more about, ‘Let’s see what this can do with one of our most popular shows right now and see if it can influence other things.’ We have to adapt just like everyone else,” he says.

Broadway has a matinee tradition, and some of the Strip’s resident Broadway musicals have run in late afternoons; “Jersey Boys” currently offers one at 5 p.m. Saturdays. “There’s a proven history at Mandalay Bay,” D’Angelil says of matinees for “The Lion King” in the same theater. Cirque even briefly ran afternoon shows of “Mystere” several years ago.

“We’re trying to adjust to the landscape of Las Vegas. Sometimes these changes are necessary,” D’Angeli says.

The little guys wish them well. Or complete and utter failure. Either way, they’ll be watching and reacting.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

Find more Las Vegas show reviews at bestoflasvegas.com.