Fewer people are visiting SeaWorld this spring than last year, and many are blaming the heated documentary "Blackfish."
SeaWorld released its first quarter earnings this week and in 2014, sales went from $238.6 million to $212.3 million, according to Vox.
"A big part of this decrease was driven by the striking decrease in attendance. Through the end of March, 3.05 million people visited the parks, compared to 3.5 million during the same period in 2013," Vox reporter Joseph Stromberg writes.
Many are blaming the decline in earnings on "Blackfish," a 2013 film that explored how killer whales are treated in the amusement park, focusing on their ill treatment that may have led to the death of several whale trainers throughout the park's network.
Plus, whale experts spotted the oldest known orca this week, and that could mean trouble for the park, since SeaWorld has claimed that whales have a 30- to 50-year life span. "Granny," (as the experts know her), is 103 years old and was seen off the coast of British Columbia over Mother's Day weekend, The Vancouver Sun reported. That's another dispute that animal rights activists point to in the documentary.
The L.A. Times reported that in response to the attendance drop, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. points to the Easter holiday falling into the second quarter of the year instead of the first, since Easter and spring break typically bring large crowds into amusement parks.
SeaWorld officials have called "Blackfish" inaccurate and manipulative, according to the L.A. Times. The company has also placed a sponsored ad for all Google searches of "Blackfish." The ad directs web searchers to a section of its website, "the truth about 'Blackfish.' " The web page outlines SeaWorld's care for its animals and studies that support the park's practices, such as teaching them new dialects.
"A spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals dismissed SeaWorld's explanation for the attendance drop, saying it was the result of public outrage over the treatment of its animals," the L.A. Times reported.
Amy McDonald hails from sunny St. George and is a graduate of BYU where she studied journalism, American studies and international development. She has written for The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Valley magazine and loves backpacking.