SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.'s quarterly financial results show that the theme park and entertainment company may be coming up for air after last year’s losses in both visitation and profits.
The Orlando-based company that owns SeaWorld San Antonio posted a profit of almost $23 million during the quarter ending June 30 after reporting just under $176 million in losses during the same time frame in 2017.
SeaWorld Entertainment has been reeling in recent years from the effects of the anti-captivity documentary film “Blackfish,” which was released in 2013.
By 2015, SeaWorld reported an 84 percent drop in its net second-quarter income, and saw attendance at its parks decrease by 100,000 from the previous year. The company also blamed the decline on record levels of rainfall in Texas during that period.
This year, total revenues are up $49 million over the first half of 2017, an increase of 8.7 percent. The company also was boosted by $40 million in cost savings created this year, and it plans another $50 million in cost reductions.
SeaWorld reported that attendance is up, with nearly a million more people visiting the nation’s SeaWorld theme parks during the first half of this year compared to 2017. The report credited the increase to new pricing strategies, marketing initiatives, and rides, attractions, and events.
A spokesman said that the company does not provide revenue or attendance numbers for individual parks. A report by the Themed Entertainment Association showed SeaWorld park attendance was down 2.1 percent in 2016 (22,000,000) versus 2015 (22,471,000). Yet the marine-themed park remained at No. 9 on the list of Top 10 Theme Park Groups ranked by attendance.
SeaWorld San Antonio opened on the city’s far Northwest Side 30 years ago. To mark the anniversary, this year SeaWorld debuted several attractions, events, and rides, including a Sesame Street parade, a new waterslide, a summer celebration, and a beer festival. The park also offered a limited-time, two-park annual pass – for SeaWorld and the water park Aquatica – at reduced prices.
SeaWorld Entertainment operates 12 parks in the United States, with SeaWorld theme parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio. In 2017, in response to complaints by animal activists following "Blackfish," SeaWorld ended its signature "Shamu" attraction at the San Diego park, and plans to halt the show in San Antonio and Orlando parks by 2019. Though the orcas will no longer jump, dive, and splash on command, they will live out their lives at the parks and guests will be able to observe them in existing view areas.
"We are pleased with our strong second-quarter financial results and the continued momentum we see in the business," stated John Reilly, interim chief executive officer of SeaWorld Entertainment. "We are particularly pleased with our second-quarter attendance growth... ."
Reilly took the reins of SeaWorld Entertainment in February on an interim basis after CEO Joel Manby stepped down.
In a transition announcement in February, Chairman of the Board Yoshikazu Maruyama stated, "Over the past three years, Joel has worked tirelessly to strengthen SeaWorld's position as a company that combines entertainment, education, and its important mission to protect marine life and the oceans. Our improving fourth quarter and positive year-to-date trends give us confidence that the steps we have taken position us well for 2018.”
But Monday’s upbeat earnings report also addressed the ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which began looking into SeaWorld’s trading practices in 2014.
SeaWorld has reached an agreement in principle with SEC to settle, without admitting or denying, the potential charges against the company, a matter that cost the company an estimated $4 million in administrative costs. No additional information was given on the related Department of Justice investigation.
Investors welcomed Monday’s quarterly financial report, with SeaWorld’s stock price jumping by 17 percent to close Monday at $24.69 a share.