SAN DIEGO - For the first time, SeaWorld is acknowledging the major impact the documentary "Blackfish" is having on its theme parks.
SeaWorld released its second quarter earnings report Wednesday and the less--than-stellar results sent the company's stock into a major freefall.
Shamu the killer whale is undoubtedly the biggest draw at SeaWorld. In an ironic twist, Shamu is also the reason the theme park's attendance is flat and revenue has dropped.
Some are pointing to the "Blackfish" effect. The controversial documentary blasts SeaWorld for its treatment of orcas and viewers started a movement, pressuring the park to release the killer whales.
Ellen Ericksen has organized protests outside SeaWorld for years. She told 10News, "I think the public is finally waking up to what goes on at SeaWorld as far as what goes on with animal abuse and animal cruelty."
SeaWorld executives have adamantly denied animal abuse allegations, along with accusations that they do not do enough to protect the trainers who work with killer whales.
Ericksen and fellow protestors stand outside the San Diego theme park urging visitors to stay away. She is pleased with news that the company's revenue is down, which sent stocks plunging 30 percent Wednesday. However, she does not want SeaWorld to shut down.
"We want them to make a business decision to take the orcas out of captivity," Ericksen said.
Erik Brevold with the National University Institute for Policy Research analyzes theme park data.
"The company itself believes that there's been some impact from 'Blackfish,'" he said.
Brevold also believes the "Blackfish" effect is not SeaWorld's only problem.
"Universal and Disney have both made in recent years billion dollar plus investments at their property to draw additional guests," he said. "If attendance continues to fall, if they continue to have negative publicity and negative brand implications from 'Blackfish,' lose corporate partners like they did with Southwest Airlines, clearly something is going to have to give."
The earnings report said the company does not expect things to turn around this year. They are forecasting 2014's revenue to be down by as much as 16 percent.