SeaWorld reports fourth quarter losses as Blackfish fallout continues

Revenue and attendance both declined - but the company plans to turn things around

SeaWorld Entertainment has suffered another blow after its revenue slid 2.7 per cent in its fourth quarter – a decrease that was lower than Wall Street expectations.

The Orlando, Florida-based theme park and water park operator reported yesterday that revenue fell to $264.5 in the last quarter of 2014, compared to $272 million for the same period in 2013. Upon the news, shares dropped by $1.30, or 6.4 per cent, to $19.05.

For the full year, revenue dropped from $1,460.3 million in 2013 to $1,377.8 million in 2014.

SeaWorld has seen its fortunes decline since it was mired in controversy following the release of 2013 documentary Blackfish. The film relayed a version of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was drowned by a bull orca called Tilikum in 2010, as well as criticising the treatment of the killer whales themselves.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite's film sparked international public outrage, as it depicted the whales as intelligent creatures with complex social structures that have been taken from their families, and claimed they are kept calm in small pools with psychotropic drugs.

SeaWorld has said: "The movie conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally, and relies on questionable film-making techniques to create 'facts' that support its point of view." 

Attendance also suffered last year, dropping to 22.4 million from a slightly higher 23.4 million.

 

However, an anonymous analyst told the New York Post that SeaWorld may actually be showing signs of recovery, pointing out that the declines in attendance and revenue were smaller than in previous quarters.

According to Bloomberg, interim chief executive David D’Alessandro said in a call with investors that SeaWorld is taking steps to put it back on track, beginning with a new advertising campaign in April.

"It can best be described as a campaign about the truth of SeaWorld, and we're very, very eager to get that into the marketplace," he said.

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