For months after the release of Blackfish, a documentary about the negligent treatment of orca whales in captivity, SeaWorld denied allegations that negative press was affecting earnings or attendance. Now, as the company failed to hit an expected revenue mark in its second quarter, it’s admitting that the backlash, likely fueled in part by Blackfish, is taking its toll.
In a press release picked up by New York Magazine, SeaWorld noted a relative decline in revenue compared to the same quarter in 2014, which it links to many causes, among them the belief that “attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California.” That legislation, the “Orca Welfare Safety Act,” garnered more than 1.2 million signatures (and had the support of Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite), and proposed to outlaw the keeping of killer whales in captivity.
Though the motion was tabled this April as lawmakers decided to wait on the results of a further study, SeaWorld’s recognition that Blackfish has affected its business is a significant change in the company’s PR. In March, Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison told reporters that the documentary had “no noticeable impact on our business” and that “the movie in some ways has actually made perhaps more interest in marine mammal parks and actually even about us.”
News that SeaWorld failed to hit expected revenues for the quarter has already affected its share price, which fell 33 percent after a 6 to 7 percent decline in the company’s revenues was forecast.