Nation & World

Is SeaWorld making a comeback?

Through July, the parks saw 900,000 more visitors

San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS

SeaWorld Entertainment reports a marked increase in attendance across its 12 parks, an improvement over several years of declining visitation and revenues.
San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS SeaWorld Entertainment reports a marked increase in attendance across its 12 parks, an improvement over several years of declining visitation and revenues.

For the second quarter in a row, SeaWorld Entertainment reported notable gains in attendance and revenues, signaling a possible rebound from years of steep losses in visitation.

Attendance jumped nearly 5 percent in the second quarter ending June 30, with 290,000 more guests visiting SeaWorld’s 12 parks than in the same quarter last year.

And through July, the SeaWorld chain saw 900,000 more guests passing through park turnstiles compared with the year before, executives reported Monday.

During the second quarter, revenue also rose nearly 5 percent — to $391.9 million, compared with $373.8 million a year earlier.

The upbeat earnings report overshadowed news from SeaWorld that it has reached an initial settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission related to possible violations of federal securities law.

The disclosure, which included few details other than it could cost the company an estimated $4 million, stems from a notice the company received earlier this year from the SEC notifying it that the agency’s staff was recommending that a “civil enforcement action or administrative proceeding be brought against the company.”

SeaWorld has been under investigation by both the SEC and Department of Justice for executives’ disclosures and public statements in August 2014 and earlier about the impact of the anti-captivity “Blackfish” documentary and trading in the company’s securities.

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SeaWorld also is facing litigation accusing it of misleading shareholders about how the film contributed to falling attendance and revenue.

The Department of Justice has intervened in that suit.

In its disclosure Monday, SeaWorld said the proposed settlement with the enforcement staff of the SEC includes no admission or denial of “potential charges against the company arising out of the previously disclosed SEC investigation.”

The settlement, SeaWorld said, still is subject to approval by the commission and there is no guarantee it will be finalized.

Interim CEO John Reilly, who only briefly referenced the possible settlement during the earnings call, attributed the second quarter’s strong results to new pricing strategies, a continued focus on marketing and well-received new attractions, including the recently opened Electric Eel coaster in San Diego.

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