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News / City Life

SeaWorld is getting rid of its killer whale show—sort of

SeaWorld San Diego
Photograph: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

Blackfish may have finally gotten to SeaWorld—that or millions of dollars in lost revenue.

The San Diego theme park announced on Monday the end of its long-running Shamu show. The current killer whale show, "One Ocean," will be phased out by the end of 2016.

But that doesn't mean the park will completely do away with its killer whale presentations—at least not yet. Instead of its high-flying theatrical show, SeaWorld will introduce a new experience that's "informative" and in a "more natural setting" with a "conservation message inspiring people to act."

The company detailed the changes in an investor document (PDF) that has nothing to do with responding to activists and everything to do with attracting millennials and making numbers in balance sheets turn green. SeaWorld has faced an uphill battle since the 2013 release of Blackfish, a documentary that criticized its treatment of orcas. Attendance decreased by more than half a million visitors—a 12 percent decrease—in the year following the film's release, according to the Themed Entertainment Association (PDF). Last month, the California Coastal Commission approved the theme park's $100 million tank expansion plan with the condition that it ceases the breeding of orcas. 

In response, SeaWorld is increasingly turning its attention toward non-marine mammal entertainment—the park already touts an observation tower, gondola ride, motion simulator, log flume and roller coaster. Today's report also includes the announcement that Evans Hotels Group will explore options to build up underdeveloped portions of the park. Don't expect any sort of towering hotel, though—a 1972 voter-passed initiative limits buildings west of the 5 to less than 30 feet in height.

Does the announcement change your mind about Sea World?