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'Blackfish' Backlash Hurts SeaWorld's Bottom Line

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire August 13, 2014 at 8:31PM

When 'Blackfish' was released, SeaWorld said the documentary wouldn't hurt business, but clearly that hasn't been the case.
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"Blackfish"

With all the talk of measuring the impact of documentaries, in the case of "Blackfish," Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary about the danger of keeping whales in captivity, the effect is clear: SeaWorld reported today that its stock has dropped, largely due to the film.

The headline of Eric Kohn's review of the film from Sundance says it all: "'Blackfish' Ensures You'll Never Go to SeaWorld Again." 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."

"Blackfish" was released theatrically by Magnolia Pictures and also aired on CNN. The film, which details the killing of a trainer by an orca at SeaWorld, makes a compelling case against keeping killer whales captive.

READ: SeaWorld Unleashes 8 Assertions About "Blackfish" And Filmmakers Respond

In October, when "Blackfish" aired on CNN, millions tuned in to learn about case of captive orca Tillikum who caused the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Activists protested against keeping orcas captive and musicians, including Heart and Willie Nelson, cancelled plans to perform at SeaWorld.

Today, shares of SeaWorld dropped more than 34% after the company cut its full-year-forecast and second-quarter results fell short of expectations. SeaWorld said attendance at its parks have dipped over the treatment of captive orcas.

"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," chief executive Jim Atchison said in a statement.

In April, a California state lawmaker introduced a bill that would ban the use of orcas in public performances at the parks and last month, Southwest Airlines dropped its promotional partnership with SeaWorld over the "Blackfish" backlash.

This article is related to: SeaWorld, Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Social Impact, Documentary







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