SeaWorld Struggles to Recover from 'Blackfish' Black Eye

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By Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- SeaWorld suffered a decline in attendance during its most recent quarter as the amusement park operator struggled to restore its image amid a withering public campaign by animal activists.

The Orlando, Florida, company fell well short of profit and revenue expectations for the second quarter and shares slumped 6 percent before the market opened Thursday. Shares have fallen 37 percent over the past year.

SeaWorld has been trying to recover from the 2013 documentary film "Blackfish" that suggested the treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. Park attendance dropped after the release of the documentary.

The company launched a marketing campaign in response featuring the orca's keepers, who say that the animals are treated well and live just as long as they do in the wild. The company also cut prices to lure more people to its parks and that has cut into the revenue it books per visitor.

SeaWorld said that most of the increased marketing spending is now behind it, and it said again that it expects to meet its financial targets for the year.

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The company cited heavy rain in Texas and "brand challenges" in California for the poor attendance numbers. It said it saw strength at its park in Orlando, Florida. The timing of the Easter holiday, high season for amusement parks, also hurt its comparison to last year's second quarter. Overall attendance fell 1.6 percent from last year's second quarter.

The company reported second-quarter profit of $5.8 million, or 7 cents per share, down from $37.4 million a year earlier.