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Montreal's 'Just for Laughs' comedy festival cancels this year's edition, seeks to avoid bankruptcy

MONTREAL — The Montreal company that operates the “Just for Laughs” comedy festival said Tuesday it has canceled this year’s event as it seeks to avoid bankruptcy.

Groupe Juste pour rire Inc. said in a news release that it is seeking protection from its creditors as it begins formal restructuring under Canada’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

The festival, known as the largest international comedy event of its kind, began in 1983. The company plans to continue operations in what it called a scaled-down format as it restructures, it said in a news release, adding that it hopes the festival will return in 2025.

The company has attributed its financial challenges to the pandemic, inflation and a changing entertainment industry, and has said it is looking for investors or to sell parts of its business.

Julien Provencher-Proulx, a spokesman for Groupe Juste pour rire, confirmed that 75 employees, or around 70% of its workers, were laid off Tuesday.

The company is 51% owned by Canadian telecommunications company Bell and Montreal event promoter Evenko, while Los Angeles-based talent agency Creative Artists Agency owns 49%. The festival has presented many of the biggest names in standup comedy, including Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld. In addition to ticketed indoor shows, the French and English festivals featured free outdoor performances.

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