SAN DIEGO - In its newest earnings report, the amusement park operator SeaWorld blamed its financial struggles on factors including the Texas storms, an earlier Easter holiday and "brand challenges" in San Diego.
SeaWorld reported Thursday that it generated a second-quarter revenue of $391 million, a three percent drop from the same period in 2014.
Its net income tumbled from $37.4 million in the second quarter of 2014 to only $5.8 million this quarter, a whopping decline of 84.4 percent. Its adjusted net income fell from $37.5 million for the second-quarter of 2014 to $18.7 million this quarter.
SeaWorld saw attendance decline at its parks from 6.58 million in 2014 to 6.48 million this quarter, a 1.6 percent difference. Its total revenue per visitor fell from $61.54 to $60.45.
"Our attendance for the second quarter declined due to the timing of Easter, record levels of rainfall in Texas and continued brand challenges in California," said Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. "These factors were partially offset by improved demand in our other park locations, including Florida."
SeaWorld said the earlier Easter holiday shifted spring break for several schools in its "source markets."
SeaWorld's year-to-date revenue is $606.2 million, a 2 percent drop from 2014. It generated a net loss of $37.8 million so far this year, compared to a net loss of $11.8 million in 2014.
SeaWorld's struggles have been dubbed the "Blackfish effect." The controversial 2013 documentary blasted SeaWorld for its treatment of orcas and viewers started a movement, pressuring the park to release the killer whales.
SeaWorld announced last year that it is expanding its killer whale tanks at all three of its marine parks. The new habitat at SeaWorld San Diego, named the Blue World Project, will double the size of its existing facility. It is expected to be complete by 2018.
Jon Baumunk, an economics lecturer at San Diego State University, said, "Trying to keep investors involves convincing investors that the revenue shortfall they've been experiencing of late is a short-term problem … If it doesn't go away quickly, investors are going to punish the company because it will impact revenue growth on an ongoing basis."
Baumunk continued, "And that's the problem, they don't feel good about coming to a park where they have doubts about the treatment of the animals there."
School bus driver Patricia Camarda told 10News, "I will go to otter shows, dog shows; they're very cute and very entertaining. Great for kids, but I won't have anything to do with the whale show. I won't; I don't believe in it."
Some visitors don't care, one way or another. Neba Wheas was vacationing with relatives from Lakewood, and she told 10News, "I heard about it but it doesn't bother me."
Others, like teacher Mark Morgan, see a more complex issue.
"I do have a little bit of problem having animals in confined spaces but I also understand some are born that way and it's the only existence they know and have to live that way for the rest of their lives," said Morgan.
He also applauds SeaWorld's animal rescue efforts, adding, "They do wonderful things like that, get involved with marine life and saving animals they find injured. That's great! Wonderful!"
Parent Joe Dimapilas was troubled by "Blackfish," adding, "I don't know if I'd go back after seeing 'Blackfish.'"
Suzanne Settelmayer admires what she's seen.
"I think there's so much education they do, it makes my kids appreciate nature more, the ocean more, be more aware. I think the animals have always looked well cared-for, when we've gone," said Settelmayer.
Patricia Ziegler has no problem, telling 10News, "We go every three months or so, the protest does nothing for me. I love SeaWorld. The fish are fine."
Randelle Jump has cut back, but for a different reason.
"We went all the time. It was a lot of fun; my kids like the rollercoasters, I like the sharks, so it was fun but when the pass was up we had enough, so I didn't renew," said Jump.