Seaworld earnings continue to slide two years after ‘Blackfish’

August 6, 2015, 6:20 PM UTC
Killer Whale Kills Trainer Before Show At SeaWorld
ORLANDO - FEBRUARY 24: The sign at the entrance to SeaWorld February 24, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. A female trainer who presumably slipped and fell in to a holding tank was fatally injured after she was attacked by an orca. This is the third human death associated with the killer whale according to the Humane Society of the United States. (Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)
Photograph by Matt Stroshane — Getty Images

Two years after the release of “Blackfish,” the documentary that called into question the way SeaWorld treats its orcas, SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) is still struggling to resuscitate the brand. According to the Orlando, Fla.-based company’s second quarter results, earnings dropped 84% in the three-month span. Attendance, meanwhile, has dropped about 2% in the past year to 6.48 million visitors.

SeaWorld Entertainment President and CEO Joel Manby blamed the timing of Easter and rainy Texas weather, in addition to continued reputation problems, for the losses. The lingering effects of “Blackfish” doesn’t seem to be felt evenly, however: SeaWorld reported improved demand in its Orlando location, singling out California as a focus of “brand challenges.”

The embattled company launched a $10 million advertising campaign in March to address what it called “a lot of misinformation and even lies.” The campaign includes print and online videos featuring experts that argue SeaWorld treats its animals fairly. In one ad, a SeaWorld veterinarian rebuts the widespread belief that killer whales have shorter lives in captivity. (The fact-checking website Politifact said that SeaWorld’s fact-check was only “Half True.”)

And while immediate results of the campaign seemed promising–attendance rose 5.6% in the first quarter of 2015–the most recent earnings report tamps down on any early celebration.