SeaWorld can’t seem to shake the negative backlash it received from the documentary “Blackfish,” and those troubles are hurting the company’s attendance and profits at its flagship location in San Diego, California.
Shares of SeaWorld plunged nearly 9% on news of its falling revenues.
The “Blackfish” documentary aired in theaters in the summer of 2013 and on CNN in the fall of that year.
The movie led Animal rights organization PETA to launch a massive campaign against SeaWorld. PETA has accused the company of treating orcas cruelly while pointing out that animals live shorter lives in captivity than they would in the wild.
The company started an ill-fated #AskSeaWorld campaign on social media in March and it quickly backfired as social media users asked the company why its parking lots were bigger than the tanks used to house killer whales.
Following the negative publicity toymaker Mattel said it will stop making SeaWorld-themed Barbies. And legendary anthropologist Jane Goodall said in April that SeaWorld “should be closed down.”
The company attempted to fix its image by launching various ads that featured SeaWorld employees discussing how they take proper care of the animals at its parks.
Overall attendance for SeaWorld — which also owns the Busch Gardens theme parks — was down 0.4% in the quarter, with the biggest decline in visitors was mainly in San Diego.
SeaWorld said the attendance dip was due to “brand challenges and is being addressed through the company’s reputation campaign, which is designed to share facts and correct misinformation.” At no point was Blackfish or PETA mentioned in the call. However, officials said the word “reputation” 13 times.
“The San Diego park is definitely stabilizing. The attendance decline a year ago was quite dramatic. This year it is very, very much lower, like from a double-digit to a low single digit or mid-single digit kind of range,” CEO Joel Manby told investors.
PETA responded to the company’s falling attendance numbers, claiming that its “downward spiral was revealed with another drop in attendance, even during its busiest season.”
The company has other issues it must deal with. Last month, the California Coastal Commission approved SeaWorld’s $100 million plan to increase the size of its whale habitat. A condition of that approval was that SeaWorld cannot breed the orcas it currently has in captivity in the state of California.
The company’s stock is down approximately 35% since it went public in 2013.