Filmmaker James Cameron used a Cirque du Soleil choreographer to direct the movements of the Na'Vi people in Avatar. Now the circus is returning the favour with a new show inspired by the top-grossing film of all time.
The arena show will premiere in Montreal in late 2015 before undertaking a long world tour that will overlap with the release, by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., of the three planned sequels to Avatar.
The film opened in theatres in 2009 and grossed $2.78-billion (U.S.), according to Box Office Mojo.
The Cirque's latest project, its first show inspired by a movie, was one of the best kept secrets in Montreal. For the past two years, Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, two creators that have often collaborated with the Cirque, have been discreetly working on the live show cast on the fictitious planet of Pandora.
"For me, Avatar is not just a celebration of what we can do with the technology.
"It is also a celebration of human movement. … So there is a natural common ground between Avatar's habitat and aesthetics and the Cirque du Soleil's aesthetics," Mr. Cameron said as he unveiled the partnership during the C2MTL business conference.
"For us, it is very important to respect the artistic vision of James and to translate, in a Cirque-du-Soleil-way, the universe of Avatar," said Daniel Lamarre, president and chief executive officer of the Montreal-based entertainment group.
Twentieth Century Fox will invest in the tour show, an artistic partnership between the Cirque, Mr. Cameron and his long-standing partner Jon Landau, with whom the Oscar-winning filmmaker produced the blockbuster Titanic. Mr. Lamarre refused to unveil the production's budget, saying the Cirque, controlled by co-founder Guy Laliberté, is a privately held company.
This is not the first collaboration between the Cirque and Mr. Cameron's firm. The two creative powerhouses worked on the film Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. But the 3-D film, released in 2012, received mixed reviews and grossed only $34-million worldwide.
This new partnership comes at a critical time for the Cirque du Soleil, which is trying to get its act together after a series of mishaps and misfortunes led the entertainment group to unveil layoffs in January, 2013. It shut down some shows and scaled back operations. The company now boasts $850-million in annual revenues.
In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Laliberté indicated that, going forward, the Cirque du Soleil would not only work to develop original circus acts and costumes, but would create shows based on celebrated franchises – a category in which Avatar clearly falls.
Mr. Cameron saw some of the preliminary work done by the Cirque on its Avatar show a year ago, and will see the latest acts in a private showing on Friday. "We are looking forward to that creative presentation. Tomorrow [Friday] will determine whether we say yes, build it or make certain changes, but we already know [the show] is in the right direction," Mr. Cameron said.