While it didn't exactly make the money of a major studio blockbuster, the documentary Blackfish made an incredible impact when it was released in 2013. Pulling in an impressive $2 million while only being released in 99 theaters, and getting a powerfully positive consensus from professional critics, the movie began a national conversation about SeaWorld parks and the way that Orca whales are treated. Of course, at the start of the controversy the executives at SeaWorld refused to admit that Blackfish was having an effect on their attendance, but now they've run into a bit of a problem: numbers don't lie.
New York Magazine has picked up a press release from SeaWorld revealing the financial results for the second quarter of 2014, and within the wording the company finally admits that they have a bit of a Blackfish problem. In trying to explain the quarterly earnings that showed shrinking revenue in the next quarter, the press release said, "the Company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California."
This is a reference to the Orca Welfare and Safety Act that was introduced by California State Assemblyman Richard Bloom earlier this year in response to Blackfish. The bill proposes that all entertainment-driven Orca whale captivity be ended, and that all of those currently performing should be allowed to retire. The legislation has been put on hold while further studies into the matter are conducted. While the bill passing in California would be a big step forward, given that SeaWorld has one of hits prime locations in San Diego, the company also has parks in Orlando, Florida and San Antonio Texas. While California's laws wouldn't directly effect those parks, the bill passing could cause a chain reaction and get other politicians to start paying attention.
While SeaWorld didn't specify Blackfish's impact by name, the quote you read above is actually a huge step when compared to the amount of denial that was coming out of the company about the documentary. New York Magazine has a quote from CEO Jim Atchison, who actually suggested that the movie was good for business. Said the executive back in March,
"The movie in some ways has actually made perhaps more interest in marine mammal parks, and actually even about us."
Now that attendance is starting to shrink, that line is perhaps a hard one to keep running.
Has Blackfish changed your opinion of SeaWorld parks? Do you think you'd still be game to buy a ticket given the horrible truths that Blackfish reveals? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.