SeaWorld Refuses to Admit Blackfish Had Impact on Attendance Dip

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. released fourth quarter earnings for 2013 on Thursday, and reported record earnings in its first year as a public company. SeaWorld President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison told analysts during Thursday's conference call that the documentary Blackfish, and its ensuing backlash, had no impact on the park, per the Orlando Sentinel.

The company did report a dip in attendance.

But SeaWorld blamed that on higher ticket prices and bad weather.

See also: SeaWorld Facing Huge Backlash After Blackfish Documentary Airs

SeaWorld Entertainment Incorporated's 2013 fourth quarter report says that:

Attendance in 2013 declined by 4.1% from 24.4 million guests in 2012 to 23.4 million guests in 2013. The decline was primarily attributable to the expected result of planned pricing and yield management strategies that increased revenue but reduced low yielding and free attendance. Also contributing to the decline in full year attendance was unexpected adverse weather conditions in the Company's second quarter and July as well as the impact of an early Easter in 2013.

There is no mention of Blackfish anywhere in Sea World's financial document.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. operates 11 theme parks -- including SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, as well as two Busch Gardens, and Aquatica and Discovery Cove in Central Florida. The company says that despite the recent dip in attendance, its bottom line has improved, due mainly to a revenue growth over the past couple of years.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that during last night's conference call, Atchinson was asked about Blackfish but insisted that backlash from the film hasn't hurt the company.

"We have seen no impact on the business," Atchison said

It would seem that the film having no impact on the business and blaming bad turnout only on higher ticket costs would be a tad presumptuous.

Blackfish aired on CNN, and inspired protests, entertainers and artists canceling performances at SeaWorld's annual music festival, and a bill proposed in California that could ban orcas from being kept in captivity.

See also: Blackfish Filmmakers Challenge SeaWorld to Debate

The film became enough of a problem that SeaWorld had to put up a page on its website to combat the accusations made by the documentary. The company accused federal workplace investigator Lara A. Padgett of leaking confidential information to the makers of Blackfish, according to Bloomberg, and alleged that she did so in exchange for free room and board, and the chance to attend red carpet ceremony with the cast and crew at the Sundance Film Festival.

In any case, the company is predicting that attendance will get back on track and grow in 2014 as more attractions are introduced throughout the parks.

Of the biggest things SeaWorld has planned for 2014: its 50th anniversary celebration, which is a $10 million extravaganza that will be held in all three SeaWorld parks, and feature night-time killer whale shows.

No doubt, this fight isn't going to end after one financial report, and SeaWorld choosing to openly ignore Blackfish's impact, while it does everything in its power to squash it.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph. Follow Chris Joseph on Twitter

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph