Big Apple Circus files for bankruptcy

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A general view of atmosphere at the Rock & Roll Circus under the Big Apple Circus tent at Lincoln Center on January 4, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

The Big Apple Circus filed for bankruptcy Nov. 20, 2016. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — There’s big trouble under the Big Apple’s big top.

Big Apple Circus declared bankruptcy on Sunday following a failed “Save the Circus” fundraising campaign, a clerk for the United States Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York confirmed.

The circus, which had just wrapped up its 38th season, raised more than $900,000, but it failed to meet its $2 million goal.

The company announced it would not be holding a 2016-2017 season in late July, but said it had raised the funds needed to continue its Clown Care program, which brings performers to visit children in hospitals nationwide.

Some circus community programs will continue or may be transitioned to other non-profit companies during the bankruptcy case,  a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.

The bankruptcy filing preserves the opportunity for Big Apple to restart its one-ring show with new financial backing or through a sale of the circus to an interested buyer.

Big Apple Circus has about $8.3 million in debt, USA Today reported. The circus was founded in 1977 by Paul Binder and Michael Christensen “to establish a performing circus and school for the instruction and artistic development of circus arts,” according to the bankruptcy filing.

“We are eternally grateful for the support provided by audiences and donors over almost 40 years, and to all of the artists, crew, staff, and Clown Doctors who have provided joy, wonder, and inspiration to so many,” said Big Apple Circus executive director Will Maitland Weiss. “We are working to ensure that the spirit of the Big Apple Circus will live on.”