It is unclear if Cirque du Soleil missed a great opportunity or dodged a bullet by foregoing inclusion into the American Dream Mall in NJ
It may be The “American Dream” Mall for a scant few, but for many others it has become a Canadian nightmare; with construction delays, traffic problems and few brands signing up for this 3.6 million sq.ft. of potential calamity in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Things have gotten so bad that even Cirque du Soleil, who started out with a purported contract to have a dedicated year-round live show on stage there, moved the project to just “rumor” and then finished up with a position of “pure speculation”. Suffice to say that Cirque du Soleil is now out and so is the planned dedicated theatre for them at the "American Dream", which was maybe just a dream to some, and a nightmare to others (all credit to Dir John Boorman)
Despite Prior Announcements, No Theatre at American Dream
What is left at this Canadian conceived/funded/built (that is now a) mall/amusement/ice-rink/waterpark development in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, is a crazy melange of pretty much anything that would bring people through its doors. What is a surprise is that they just don’t pay people to come visit the mall itself, as that could be far cheaper, as the first phase of this project has already cost over $5 billion just to open its doors to the public. The potential white elephant in New Jersey, that has scant few shops and restaurants, has now set an opening day of October 25, 2019, and also intends to open the non-shopping attractions, that includes a water park, amusement park, an indoor ski slope and an ice rink - sans the Cirque du Soleil theatre.
"Dream, Shop, Play and Dine" is Missing "Watch"
The development has already weathered three developers, four designs, a rough recession and one angry NJ governor Chris Christie. The Governor famously called the building the ugliest building in America due to its terrible paintwork on the exterior of the building that abuts the Western Spur of the NJ Turnpike. This project was first conceived in 1994 when the retail landscape was far healthier and shopping malls still made sense. With internet shopping now being the most common way to purchase goods, shopping malls have lost all the momentum that they had back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but the American Dream project just steamed ahead. Given the amount of space that the mall was to provide, it seemed only fitting that the Canadian developers would try to get their fellow Canadian company’s into the mix, which is where Cirque du Soleil came in with plans for their first permanent show in the NYC area to be located in the American Dream Theatre.
Last Ditch Effort To Reinvent The Shopping Mall
The American Dream mall, is in fact a last-ditch effort by developers to see if they can save the American mall idea, by bringing in flashy non-shopping activities that make the location a destination, rather than a chore. Thus the idea to bring a live performance theatre to the mall provides a cultural aspect never seen before in a shopping mall that has often played to the dingy crowd than than the cultural elites. The complex claims to have partnerships with some big names in the industry like DreamWorks, Coca-Cola, Nickelodeon, Lego and Vice Media, but given its inability to deliver Cirque du Soleil, these are dubious relationships at best. Transportation to the mall could prove to be troublesome as public transport is far from ready and the already crammed New Jersey Turnpike is not going to be able to deliver any more cars due to its overcrowding, especially bad at rush hour. The mall will run private shuttle buses, which will pick up visitors at sites in Manhattan and from local airports, but this may be its Achilles heel in that people may want to go there, but cannot actually get there. There may be better examples of the new-age mall strategy, with a new shining example opening at TSX Broadway, in the heart of Times Square.
Does Cirque du Soleil Miss an Opportunity or Dodge a Bullet?
It is no secret that the Cirque du Soleil (CDS) shows struggle to perform in the NYC area. The franchise is incredibly strong in Las Vegas NV, but they cannot seem to break into the NYC market, notwithstanding the many valiant attempts they have already made at various locations around the city over the last few years. The most successful CDS show was at the big top in Battery Park way back in 1995 . Since then Cirque du Soleil has been bounced around to Randall's Island, Liberty State Park, Roosevelt Island, Madison Square Garden, The Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall and finally the Lyric Theatre, just prior to Harry Potter landing there. If Cirque du Soleil had been able to pull the trigger at the American Dream, it would have been the first time that they have set down a sit-down permanent show in the NYC area and while it would have been a huge financial risk to be there, they really do not have much to lose except maybe some cash, well large amounts of it, because the American Dream financials are no dream, despite their protestations.