SeaWorld Attendance Drops Amid Blackfish Controversy

by on April 4, 2014 · 5 comments

in Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego, Sports

SeaWorld jump orca

By Hugo Martin / LA Times /  April 2, 2014

Amid ongoing controversy over its killer whale shows, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported a 13% drop in attendance for the first three months of the year.

The attendance numbers were included in a notice to the Securities and Exchange Commission that SeaWorld was buying 1.75 million of its own shares from Blackstone Group.

The notice said attendance for the three-month period that ended March 31 dropped to about 3.05 million visitors from 3.5 million in the same period in 2013.

In previous reports, SeaWorld officials noted that attendance numbers may change with the shift of holidays in the calendar. Easter, for example, took place in the first quarter of 2013, but in 2014 the holiday falls in the second quarter.

The Orlando-based theme park company has been under scrutiny by animal rights activists following the release last year of a documentary film, “Blackfish,” that suggests the parks mistreat their killer whales.

A spokesperson for SeaWorld could not be reached for comment.

But during a conference call last month to report 2013 financial results, SeaWorld officials rejected suggestions that the company is suffering because of a backlash from the film.

For the year, attendance at the company’s 11 parks dropped by 4.1% to 24.4 million, but the decline was offset by higher admission prices and greater in-park spending. SeaWorld officials instead attributed the attendance drop to a rise in theme park ticket prices last year.

Blackstone bought SeaWorld Entertainment from Anheuser-Busch InBev for $2.3 billion in 2009. Blackstone launched an initial public offering of the company last year.

The repurchase of SeaWorld shares coincides with the sale by Blackstone of 15 million shares in an underwritten offering. Blackstone’s stake in the company will eventually drop to about 25%, according to filings.

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Molly April 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

Attention, attendance is down at SeaWorld. All you nae-sayers , those who support SeaWorld despite the growing momentum to restrict what sea animals they can use, need to be aware that people are voting on this issue with their feet.

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avatar cat April 7, 2014 at 11:21 am

I think the attendance has to do with the fact that people just can’t afford to go there as much because of the economy… when people are not working Sea World or Disney are the last places people would take their kids… Very expensive — especially if you have 3 or 4 kids…

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avatar OB Joe April 7, 2014 at 11:28 am

cat, good point, but the Great Recession has been going on for a while now – so, why now is attendance down?

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avatar Goatskull April 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I don’t think so. As bad as things may be (economy), if what you’re saying is the case then attendance would have been down several years ago. I think the decline in attendance mostly due to information about what goes on behind the scenes, bad economy or not. There are plenty of other entities doing just fine as far as people spending their money on entertainment.

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avatar cat April 7, 2014 at 11:40 am

Yes it has and the longer it goes on… the worse it’s going to get… People still try to do things for their kids until they just can’t any more — long, long term unemployment is the problem I think …

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