SeaWorld Orlando’s parent company says attendance at all its parks is up 9 percent so far in 2018, continuing the theme park chain’s comeback after years of seeing fewer guests pass through the turnstiles.
The company released preliminary third quarter financial results on Monday as part of a potential debt refinancing deal. Through Sept. 30, total attendance at its 12 parks increased by 1.4 million guests, along with a $90 million estimated jump in total revenue.
Attendance is up 10 percent and revenue up 9 percent compared to the third quarter of 2017, which was impacted by hurricanes causing temporary closures at SeaWorld-owned parks in Florida and Texas.
If the preliminary results hold up, it will mark a third consecutive positive quarter for SeaWorld. Attendance at its theme parks increased by 15 percent year-over-year through the first three months of the year, followed by a 4.8 percent jump in the second quarter.
SeaWorld Orlando’s attendance had fallen from 5.3 million guests in 2012 to 3.9 million guests in 2017 after the release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which criticized the park’s use and treatment of captive whales in its theme parks. The film’s impact on attendance and revenue was downplayed by the company at the time, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), which recently settled a lawsuit alleging that SeaWorld misled its investors in its post-“Blackfish” statements. SeaWorld did not admit or deny fault as part of the settlement terms, which included $5 million in fines.
The Orlando park has continued to make changes and cut despite the sunny attendance and revenue figures. A day after the positive second quarter financials were released in August, the park cut 125 jobs. Last month, it announced a management change with park President Jim Dean moving to a corporate position and being replaced by Mark Pauls.