SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported significant drops in profits and attendance in its second-quarter results Thursday, as the fallout from a documentary film that alleged the park mistreated its iconic orcas continued.
The company revealed an 84 percent drop in net second-quarter income, from $37.4 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2015, and saw revenue fall from $405.1 million to $391.6 million, a drop of 3 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Attendance also dropped by 106,000 visitors, around 2 percent.
The company's parks have been the target of activist ire and subject to ongoing negative publicity, since the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” alleged that the conditions in which SeaWorld kept its orcas caused them trauma, which in turn had contributed to the deaths of three park employees that worked with the animals.
Amid the ongoing controversy, the company's stock price plunged last year, following disappointing results in its crucial third quarter, and its then-CEO Jim Atchison stepped down amid criticism of how his team had handled the situation.
This year, the company has faced accusations that it sent an employee undercover to pose as an activist and infiltrate the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has been leading criticism of its practices.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby blamed the fall in attendance on the timing of Easter and heavy rain in Texas, where the company operates a park in San Antonio. But he also acknowledged that “brand challenges” in California had hurt the company's bottom line.
“We realize we have much work ahead of us to recover more of our attendance base, increase revenue and improve our performance as returning to historical performance levels will take time and investment,” Manby added.
To counter the negative publicity that has dogged the company in recent years, SeaWorld undertook an expensive marketing campaign in the second quarter, which was in part responsible for some of the reduction in profits.
In a discouraging sign, SeaWorld piled on promotions to jolt admission in the first half of 2015, but overall attendance still slipped, a drop that comes amid increasing ticket prices at competitors such as Disney parks, USA Today reported.
PETA seized on SeaWorld's latest attendance drop. "Families just don't want to buy tickets to see orcas going insane inside tiny tanks, and SeaWorld's profits, like the orcas, won't recover until the abusement park empties its tanks and builds coastal sanctuaries," the group wrote in a statement, cited by CNN Money.
Mandy, who joined Sea World as CEO four months ago, said he would set out his vision for the future of the company at a special event Nov. 6.
The company also has plans to lure visitors back to its parks with a new shark exhibition in Orlando and an attraction in San Antonio that will allow customers to swim with dolphins.