As SeaWorld Attendance Plummets, Company Promises Florida "Biggest, Fastest" Roller Coaster

SeaWorld announced on Thursday that there has been a steep decline in attendance, sales, and profits and blamed "continued brand challenges” — which is another way of saying people are upset over the company's keeping orcas in captivity. 

Attendance at SeaWorld's theme parks across the United States fell by 2 percent during the second quarter, according to the report. Net income dropped 85 percent to $5.8 million, and revenue declined 3 percent to $391.6 million.

The company also blamed the Easter holiday for its second-quarter decline, as well as "record levels of rainfall in Texas." But SeaWorld did mention that "these factors were partially offset by improved demand in our other park locations, including Florida."

Still. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. President and CEO Joel Manby admitted in a statement that the company has its work cut out for it to get attendance and revenue back up, including the announcement of two new rides to be unveiled next year.

"We realize we have much work ahead of us to recover more of our attendance base, increase revenue, and improve our performance as returning to historical performance levels will take time and investment," Manby's statement reads. "To address some of our competitive challenges in Florida, we have adjusted our attraction plans with the announcement of two new significant coaster additions for 2016."

This is the second time this year SeaWorld has reported bad news for its company. Back in May, the theme park announced a net loss of $43.6 million in the first quarter of the year, despite saying that attendance to its parks had gone up. And while the company continues to refuse to acknowledge the impact the documentary Blackfish has made, for the second-quarter report, it used the term "brand challenges" when talking about the dip in profits at its San Diego-based park.

Blackfish, which premiered in 2013 and has been a popular film to stream on Netflix, interviews former whale trainers and exposes the harm done to orcas in captivity. The film shows footage of orcas attacking trainers and reports on the death of one SeaWorld trainer who was killed by an orca bull. The film specifically targets SeaWorld, claiming that captivity makes the otherwise docile mammals crazed.

Since the film's release, SeaWorld has had to fight a seemingly never-ending PR battle. Most notably was the cancellation of several high-profile musicians and artists from its Bands, Brew & Barbecue music fest in Florida in 2013. 

The company fought back with a $10 million PR campaign and set up a web page to address the accusations made by Blackfish. The company also cut ticket prices. But the campaign has failed to take a foothold with the public, and former SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. CEO Jim Atchison eventually stepped down

"SeaWorld is in the midst of a spying scandal, animals are dying in its tanks, and tens of thousands of people have opposed its bid to build a new orca prison, so it should come as no surprise that SeaWorld's quarterly earnings have plummeted yet again in the second quarter," PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman said via an email to New Times. "Families just don't want to buy tickets to see orcas going insane inside tiny tanks, and SeaWorld's profits, like the orcas, won't recover until the abusement park empties its tanks and builds coastal sanctuaries."

Still, Manby says that SeaWorld is on track to meet its full-year profit goals and added that Orlando's new roller coaster will be the "biggest, tallest, longest, fastest coaster."

"Based on these factors and our current outlook, we are reaffirming our full year Adjusted EBITDA guidance for 2015," he says.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph