SeaWorld Entertainment reported a dive in attendance with its biggest loss at its Orlando theme park during its 2016 financial performance report.
SeaWorld reported an overall net loss of $84 million for the first quarter, compared with $43.5 million a year earlier. Overall revenue grew to $220.2 million, up 3 percent from a year earlier.
SeaWorld Orlando’s net loss, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, was $46.9 million, or 56 cents a share.
While attendance rose at its San Diego theme park, it declined at both Florida locations, because of a decrease in visitors from financially troubled Brazil and a drop in pass holders at SeaWorld Orlando — issues that will probably persist this year, according to CEO Joel Manby. He also noted that the park was closed during Hurricane Matthew’s visit last year.
Manby told investors that 2017 would be a transitional year for the company, which has struggled with attendance since the 2013 release of the Blackfish movie. The movie criticized the way the park cares for its animals and caused a public backlash, forcing SeaWorld to halt their breeding program and change their entertainment shows into educational programs.
The CEO asked for patience from its investors as they transition into the new strategy during 2017. The new initiatives include adding more festivals and virtual reality rides to draw visitors. SeaWorld Orlando’s Kraken roller coaster debuts this summer with the popular virtual reality goggles to view an illusion of diving under the water during the ride. Revenues also should get a boost from the 320 people laid off last year at SeaWorld Orlando.
The company warned that a shift in the Memorial Day holiday could also affect this year’s performance by shortening the summer season. SeaWorld Orlando will be competing against the opening of Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay and Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the Memorial Day weekend.
It projects earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will range from $335 million to $365 million for this year. Last year it was $361 million.