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ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) – While battling negative publicity, SeaWorld announced Thursday that more people visited its theme parks in the first three months of the year because of the earlier Easter holiday. But competition, however, remains tough.

SeaWorld’s shares fell more than 2 percent in morning trading Thursday.

The theme park operator, best known for its water shows featuring killer whales and dolphins, has launched marketing campaigns to combat the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which suggested its treatment of the mammals can provoke them and has led to the death of trainers. SeaWorld has denied this.

The company, based in Orlando, Florida, said attendance rose 5.6 percent from a year ago to $3.2 million in the first quarter. President and CEO Joel Manby said he remains “cautious” about attendance because of increasing competition in Orlando and because marketing to boost its reputation is “still in their early stages.” The company operates 11 theme parks around the country.

SeaWorld said its net loss narrowed to $43.6 million, or 51 cents per share, in the three months ending March 31, compared with a loss of $49.2 million, 56 cents per share, the year before. The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of 58 cents per share.

Revenue rose 1.1 percent to $214.6 million, which also topped Street forecasts. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $211.5 million.

Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. fell 49 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $21.05 in morning trading Thursday. Its shares are down about 32 percent in the last 12 months.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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