SeaWorld Entertainment Inc (NYSE:SEAS)’s problems don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. The company’s harsh remarks for the film Blackfish landed it in deep water, and consumers are responding by staying away from the company’s theme parks.
SeaWorld CEO resigns
Last year, SeaWorld put out a scathing critique to 50 movie critics saying that Blackfish, a documentary about killer whales, is inaccurate. That film made SeaWorld’s popularity plunge suddenly. SeaWorld reportedly called the film “scientifically inaccurate” and “shamefully dishonest,” calling attention to a movie that some would say the theme park operator should have just ignored.
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The Washington Post reports that CEO Jim Atchison resigned on Thursday amid plummeting attendance numbers. Some believe his departure is related to the fallout from the company’s comments about the documentary.
SeaWorld affected by negative publicity
SeaWorld reported a 7.3% decline in revenue for the nine months ending Sept. 30. Management blamed bad weather and competition but didn’t mention specifically fallout from the comments about Blackfish. Instead, there was a vague reference to negative publicity that was made worse by social media. They also stated that California lawmakers had made a move to restrict SeaWorld’s ability to display some animals.
Investors have been unhappy with SeaWorld as well since its comments about the movie. Since it was released, the theme park operator’s stock price has plunged by almost 44%. Attendance at its theme parks plummeted as well, falling by half a million people during the third quarter, according to a statement from SeaWorld.
Animal rights activists target SeaWorld
The bad publicity is just going from bad to worse right now as the Oceanic Preservation Society and other organizations have launched a campaign against SeaWorld on behalf of animal rights. A number of petitions have appeared on Change.org, and several websites lambasting SeaWorld have appeared.
The Consumerist even placed SeaWorld in the top four most-hated American companies. Unfortunately SeaWorld may be suffering from a dilemma of its own making. When people feared killer whales, they weren’t very concerned with the animals’ rights. However, SeaWorld made people sympathize with the animals, and now protestors have besieged the company’s theme parks. Children have also met with lawmakers to express concerns about the creatures and how SeaWorld confines them.
Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment edged upward by as much as 2% in premarket trading this morning.