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Nov 08, 2013 01:19 PM EST

'Blackfish' Documentary Hurting SeaWorld's Stock?

SeaWorld Orca
(Photo : Flickr/CC) The documentary "Blackfish" questions the living conditions of orcas in Seaworld, which has 11 locations around the country.

SeaWorld stock is down and it be related to the slow-building success of "Blackfish," the critically-acclaimed documentary that premiered at Sundance in January, The Wall Street Journal's Market Watch reported.

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Gradually gaining public attention -- aided by a series of articles published by CNN last week - "Blackfish" investigates the story of a SeaWorld trainer who drowned when an orca dragged her into a training pool and wouldn't let go. More broadly, the film questions the ethicality of raising orcas in pools and the purposes of places like SeaWorld in general.

Though SeaWorld "remains on track to achieve a record year," according to CEO Jim Atchison, its stock has decreased by 25 percent since highs reached earlier in the year, Market Watch reported. For the quarter ending on June 30, however, revenues were down just four million dollars from the same quarter last year ($254 million to $259 million), only a slight decline, according to Market Watch. SeaWorld blames weather for the minor decrease.

"Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain," SeaWorld said in a statement. "The film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld - among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research."

SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs told Market Watch that the film is "animal-rights propaganda" and "in no way reflects our values as an organization or the current state of killer-whale display in our parks."

Numerous critics have heaped praise on the film (98 percent on the film site Rotten Tomatoes) while audiences have cringed at gory scenes showing trainers under attack (see video at the end of the article) and of orcas, at times, attacking their own bodies because of mental distress, The New York Times reported.

"If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don't you think you'd get a little psychotic?" Jane Velez-Mitchell, a CNN anchor, asked during one scene of "Blackfish."

"For anyone who has ever questioned the humaneness of keeping wild animals in captivity and training them to perform tricks for food, this will be trenchant, often harrowing stuff," The Hollywood Reporter wrote of "Blackfish" following its Sundance debut. "Perhaps even more so for those who have never considered the issue."

Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperwaite said the 2010 drowning of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau spurred her desire to film "Blackfish."

"I was very confused by that story, because I didn't understand why a killer whale who was a very highly intelligent animal would have made a decision to kill a trainer that was actively feeding it," he said.

In its initial public offering (IPO), SeaWorld seems to have anticipated something along the lines of "Blackfish," Market Watch reported.

"An accident or an injury at any of our theme parks ... that receives media attention, is the topic of a book, film, documentary or is otherwise the subject of public discussions, may harm our brands or reputation, cause a loss of consumer confidence in the Company, reduce attendance at our theme parks and negatively impact our results of operations." 

In one clip from the movie, a SeaWorld trainer fractures her arm (and leaves with her life after a clever save by a fellow trainer) when an orca drags her under in "Blackfish."

Another clip (below) shows how the orca whales were first captured and how they almost saved their young.


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