In The Palm Of Your Hand

Their backs are strong, but don’t put the weight of a dying business on the shoulders of the elephants.

Ringling Bros. announced this week that the show will no longer go on. The world-famous travelling act, almost 150 years old, will stop performing in May. Attendance at the circus has been dropping steadily for years, but following a decade-old battle with animal rights groups and governments, the company pulled the elephants out of the act last May.

Apparently, the soul of the circus left with the elephants. . . along with the profits.

Once big news when the circus (any circus) pulled into town (any town), the sky-high acrobatics, strong men, human oddities, and exotic animals no longer appeal to families as they once did.

These days it takes more than the promise of a hot dog and bag of peanuts to pull a 12-year-old kid away from the Xbox.

The circus is no longer relevant in the entertainment world. You don’t have to step under the big top to see all the action; not when you have access to that type of entertainment (and more) on your laptop or handheld device.

It is all right there in the palm of your hand, and it’s not limited by time or date. In fact, there is so much entertainment with live streaming in this digital age that you don’t have to go out any more.

And it seems we aren’t.

Movie theatre revenue is down, and it’s not just the high price of tickets and popcorn that is keeping people away. Quality of the offerings is down, for the most part, and you can watch the same shitty movies at home within days of release. Or you can watch something that might be better whenever you want through any number of subscriptions services.

At one time we relied on clubs and concerts as sources of new music. Not anymore. It is easier to find new music online, and preferred. Sadly. Recently Hugh’s Room, a comfortable Toronto restaurant and live music venue, closed its doors. Once popular with the acoustic, jazz, and indie music crowd, the 200-seat room has been struggling for some time.

People simply aren’t going out to find entertainment, not if they don’t have to. Or not if there isn’t a perceived reason to go out.

So while we may rejoice that the elephants and exotic animals are no longer misused or abused to give us a few laughs or a night out with the family, and while we may think of it as quality time at home, what this shows is that we want to be surprised and delighted when it comes to entertainment.

We don’t want to see the same old sort of lion-taming or sword-swallowing, out-of-date song and dance act. We don’t want to watch yet another sequel or remake. We want to be entertained.

Or we will just entertain ourselves at home.

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