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SeaWorld Wades Into 2014 Amid 'Blackfish' Backlash

But the flaw in the strong earnings was weakened attendance. In the third quarter, attendance was down 3.6%, continuing the yearly trend of fewer visitors. Through the first nine months, total attendance declined 4.7%. SeaWorld did see higher spending per person inside the parks in the third quarter ($22.36 vs. $21.61), which helped offset a lower headcount. Some of the weakened attendance figures could be the direct result of Blackfish.

Despite Blackfish, SeaWorld will not see its parks close or the entertainment from orcas end anytime soon. Consumers will continue to pay handsomely to watch marine animals up close and personal as they perform tricks and swim. After all, the death in 2010 didn't cause the parks to close then, and one film isn't likely to have a huge impact.

In the short term, SeaWorld will take the P.R. hit and might see fewer people visiting its parks. This will put pressure on in-park spending on food and merchandise, a strength for the company in recent quarters.

SeaWorld continues to have a tough road ahead. Try posting on Facebook (FB) that you are taking your family to SeaWorld. I bet some random relative or friend will ask you if you've seen the movie and criticize your decision.

Boycotting SeaWorld has become the right thing to do, for many. With a recent secondary stock offering and cancellations from musicians at the festival, shares may be stuck around $30 for a little while.

SeaWorld does pay a dividend yield north of 2%, which should get some value investors to stick around. Long-term investors can likely wait out the impact of Blackfish and the weakened attendance figures. However, I don't see there being a very happy ending for SeaWorld shares in 2014. A potential Academy Award nomination or win could even see shares trade below the IPO price.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Chris Katje has been fascinated with the stock market since a young age. That passion turned into a freelance writing career that began in 2008. Mr. Katje has seen his work appear on Seeking Alpha, the Motley Fool, The Street, and Variety. Chris's annual top ten stock picks list continues to beat the market and grow in popularity. You can follow Chris on Twitter (@chriskatje).
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