So often it’s difficult to measure the exact impact of documentary, but that’s not the case with “Blackfish,” Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary about the danger of keeping whales in captivity. In the case of that film, which Magnolia Pictures released theatrically and CNN aired multiple times in 2013, the effect is clear: SeaWorld has said it will end orca shows at its San Diego park next year, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
In place of the orca show, SeaWorld plans to introduce a new “orca experience” beginning in 2017, which the company said would carry a “conservation message inspiring people to act,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
When Eric Kohn reviewed the film at Sundance 2013, he predicted the outrage that would result: “‘Blackfish’ Ensures You’ll Never Go to SeaWorld Again,” read the headline. Kohn concluded that the film makes the “unsettling case that SeaWorld’s live acts of entertainment are in fact a expensively veiled form of torture.”
In 2013, when “Blackfish” first aired on CNN, millions tuned in to learn about THE case of captive orca Tillikum who caused the 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. Activists protested against keeping orcas captive and musicians, including Heart and Willie Nelson, cancelled plans to perform at SeaWorld.