Comedy festival Just for Laughs cancels its 2024 edition and declares bankruptcy

Organizers of Canada's highly regarded Just for Laughs festival, a large gathering in Montreal where a number of comics were discovered, have canceled the 2024 edition and declared bankruptcy.

Dozens of staff have also been made redundant as a result of the moves, which have been blamed on the double whammy of Covid and rising inflation. Multiple press reports estimated that 75 workers left, or about 70% of employees. “We plan to maintain JPR’s operations, albeit in a scaled-down form, throughout the restructuring process,” the filing organization, Juste pour rire Inc., said in a statement.

Events are held in several parts of Canada under the Just for Laughs banner. One in Toronto run by different organizers is expected to go ahead as scheduled in September.

JPR said it has filed a notice of intent to file a proposal under the Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Code. The organization said that its board of directors, “after extensive consideration of all available alternatives, reached the conclusion that the financial situation of the organization left no other option but to initiate formal restructuring procedures.”

Through the bankruptcy process, Just for Laughs may seek investors or acquirers to acquire all or part of the business.

While this summer's festival in Montreal is just ground zero, organizers are hopeful that the 2025 edition can be held once the trade disruptions subside.

The statement said: “The decision to initiate restructuring procedures was reached after a comprehensive study of all options available to the company, taking into account its very difficult financial situation in light of the major changes in our business landscape in recent years.”

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The statement added that Covid had forced the festival to “effectively cease operations for two years”, with significant overhead costs continuing. “The pandemic has been followed by periods of inflation which we continue to experience, meaning our cost structure has increased significantly, resulting in unprecedented financial pressures on the organisation.”

Shifts in the media industry also played a role in the bankruptcy. “The landscape of the media industry has changed radically over the past few years,” the JPR statement noted. “Consolidation and reduced budgets on networks and streaming platforms have made television production more difficult.”

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