People Are Learning More About SeaWorld’s Practices. That’s Why Its Stock Is Crashing.

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 13 2014 1:10 PM

People Are Learning More About SeaWorld’s Practices. That’s Why Its Stock Is Crashing.

97030819-guests-watch-an-orca-display-near-the-exit-of-seaworld
Guests look across a display of orca models at the SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.*

Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Like a captive orca crashing down into the waters of its bathtub prison, shares of SeaWorld Entertainment are plunging today after the theme park operator delivered a dreadful earnings report. Although attendance was up slightly this quarter compared with a year ago, it has fallen 4.3 percent over the full first six months of the year. Revenue is also down about 5 percent over the first half of 2014; the company predicts that revenue will fall 6 to 7 percent by the time the year is out. As of writing, the stock has dropped about 30 percent, or $8 and change.

SeaWorld Entertainment runs 11 theme parks, not all of which make their money by training enormous aquatic predators to do tricks for sedentary Americans on family vacations. The company believes attendance has dropped overall partly for boring reasons like a late start to summer vacation in a few markets and new attractions at its competitors. But SeaWorld’s namesake parks have been dogged by controversy ever since the release of the documentary Blackfish, which spotlights their deeply troubling treatment of killer whales. And SeaWorld corporate clearly thinks the PR troubles are costing them. In its earnings release, the company says it’s pretty sure some visitors stayed away this quarter due to “media attention” surrounding a bill in California’s state Legislature that would ban orca shows at theme park. In other words, people are finally taking a hard look at SeaWorld's business, and it's making them seasick. 

Advertisement

*Correction, Aug. 13, 2014: The photo caption in this post originally described the image incorrectly. The guests are looking at a dispaly of orca models, not live whales.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 21 2014 11:27 AM There Is Now a Real-life Hoverboard You Can Preorder for $10,000
  Life
Quora
Oct. 21 2014 11:37 AM What Was It Like to Work at the Original Napster?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.