What: Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) fell 12.1% last month, according to S&P Capital IQ data. The controversial theme-park operator delivered a disappointing earnings report, and announced that it would be ending its once popular killer-whale show.
So what: SeaWorld's third-quarter revenue and earnings fell short of Wall Street's expectations as the embattled company continues to struggle with bad press related to its handling of marine animals.
Revenues and attendance have suffered since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which criticized SeaWorld's treatment of killer whales, setting off a storm of negative publicity. In that regard, SeaWorld Entertainment's November swoon is actually part of a far-larger decline, as the stock has plunged 50% since the film's U.S. release in July 2013.
SeaWorld has attempted to respond to outcries from animal rights groups and other concerned parties by running a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that defends its treatment of marine mammals, and highlights its animal-rescue efforts. The company also resorted to discounting admissions in order to stabilize attendance, but that has hurt profitability, with net margins now at half of their 2012 peak.
Now what: CEO Joel Manby outlined a broad plan to meet these challenges during SeaWorld Entertainment's Nov. 9 investor day presentation. Chief among them is to end SeaWorld's killer whale shows at its San Diego park next year. The company will replace the show with a new orca experience in 2017 that will feature a more natural environment and animal behavior, while also promoting a strong conservation message.
Other parts of the plan include adding more rides and hotels to its parks, and a process to streamline ticket prices.
Whether or not these measures will be enough to right the ship at the struggling chain of marine-life-themed parks remains to be seen. But one thing's for sure: SeaWorld must continue to work to restore its reputation and brand image if it's to resume its place as a top destination for families and marine-life enthusiasts.