SeaWorld sees drop in attendance, revenue in 2016

Theme park blames Hurricane Matthew for fewer guests

(Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – With fewer people visiting SeaWorld theme parks, the company reported a worse-than-expected loss.

Attendance at the company's parks, which have been known for their killer whale water shows, has suffered since the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" suggested that SeaWorld's treatment of animals might have led to the deaths of trainers. It announced last year that it would not breed killer whales and would stop using them in shows, and its first park outside the U.S., set to open in 2022 in Abu Dhabi, won't feature killer whales at all.

The company said visits to its parks, which fell by 30,000, or .7 percent, in the quarter was because of the impact of Hurricane Matthew in October, a Category 5 storm that hit portions of Florida.

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From September to December, attendance slipped .7 percent to 4.38 million from 4.41 million in the same period the year before. Attendance for all of 2016 fell more than 2 percent to 22 million from 22.5 million in 2015. The company has 12 theme parks, including Busch Gardens, Adventure Island and its namesake SeaWorld parks.

The Orlando company reported a loss of $11.9 million, or 14 cents per share, in its fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $11 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same quarter a year earlier. Wall Street analysts had expected a loss of 9 cents per share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue also missed expectations, falling slightly to $267.6 million from $267.9 million. Analysts expected revenue of $269 million.

For the year, the company reported a loss of $12.5 million, or 15 cents per share, after reporting a profit a year earlier. Revenue was reported as $1.34 billion.

Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. were unchanged in premarket trading Tuesday. They were up about 6 percent in the last 12 months.