Fallout from the Blackfish documentary, and continued activist criticism, may be to blame for SeaWorld’s disappointing 2014 earnings report, which still shows a downward decline. Park attendance was down only a small amount–22.4 million in 2014, versus 23.4 million in 2013. Earnings, however, suffered more.
SeaWorld faces an uphill battle as revenues for all of 2014 were down 6% from 2013 at $1.4 billion. Revenue from just the fourth quarter of 2014 were down 3% from 2013, reporting 264.5 million. The company was operating at a net loss in the fourth quarter of $25.4 million.
The release of Blackfish has emboldened SeaWorld’s critics and their claims of animal mistreatment, particularly of the park’s orcas. SeaWorld called Blackfish “propaganda, not a documentary.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has slammed SeaWorld for housing its sea creatures in non-native and allegedly too-small habitats. Last year MTV’s purveyor of mayhem, Steve-O, defaced a freeway sign for Sea World in San Diego to read “Sea World Sucks.” PETA staff reportedly pledged to help pay for any resulting fines at the time.
Company analysis of financial results attributed the decline in fourth quarter 2014 revenue to a decline in attendance and revenue per capita. Yet the company also noted that the decline in attendance waned as fourth quarter 2014 was only down 2.2% versus a third quarter 2013 to 2014 decline of 5.2%.
Big plans, and perhaps brighter days, are yet ahead for SeaWorld. In the first days of 2015, SeaWorld representatives revealed plans for expanded Orca Habitats at three of the company’s parks. PETA protesters decried the new habitat as just a “bigger prison.”
SeaWorld continues to make changes in apparent attempts to mitigate the negative impression Blackfish and critics have left on the parks. CEO Jim Atchison stepped down from his position with the company in early 2015.
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