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Cirque du Soleil looks to break into Hollywood with film deal

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Artists of the Cirque du Soleil perform on stage. The entertainment group, expanding beyond its signature stage shows, struck a deal to make feature-length films, a partnership with the company that co-produced the hit "The Lego Movie" and this weekend's new Walt Disney Co release "Aladdin."

[LOS ANGELES] Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, expanding beyond its signature stage shows, struck a deal to make feature-length films, a partnership with the company that co-produced the hit "The Lego Movie" and this weekend's new Walt Disney Co release "Aladdin."

The Montreal-based entertainment company is teaming up with Dan Lin's Rideback company to mine its portfolio of characters and create a series of films, the companies said Tuesday. More specific plans, such as titles and possible release dates, are still being worked out.

Cirque du Soleil has taken steps in recent years to develop new sources of revenue, often via acquisitions. Chief Executive Officer Daniel Lamarre said he was struck by Rideback's success in developing a movie franchise based on the toy blocks from Lego A/S.

"Who would have thought that a filmmaker can do a big movie with Lego," Mr Lamarre said in an interview. "When I saw that I was just saying to myself, ‘Just imagine what they can do with the characters of Cirque.'"

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As streaming services proliferate, there's a scramble for more intellectual property. Hollywood producers have mined everything from board games to emojis for inspiration.

Mr Lin, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Rideback, said in an interview that Cirque du Soleil is one of the few brands in the entertainment world with a global fan base able to support a theatrically released movie.

Cirque du Soleil has branched out from its original acrobatic shows into new areas of live entertainment. It acquired Blue Man Productions in 2017 and the children's entertainment company VStar Entertainment Group last year. In February, the company bought Works Entertainment and its troupe of magicians called the Illusionists, using part of a US$120 million credit line. Cirque du Soleil has been predicting that sales will hit a record this year of more than US$1 billion.

The partnership will help Cirque du Soleil "be present on multiplatforms," Mr Lamarre said.

Rideback operates from a campus in Los Angeles's historic Filipinotown district, which is also home to Warner Bros Animation Group. It serves as the base for writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who oversaw the first "Lego Movie," and the actress-producer Margot Robbie's production company, LuckyChap Entertainment.

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