SeaWorld plans to phase out its theatrical killer whale program at its San Diego theme park next year, the company’s CEO, Joel Manby, announced in a presentation to investors and analysts on Monday.
As its killer whale program has come under fire in recent years, SeaWorld plans to debut a new orca program in 2017 that will feature an “informative and more natural setting” and promote a “conservation message inspiring people to act,” according to documents shown during the presentation.
Visitors “want experiences that are more natural and look more natural,” Manby said during a question-and-answer portion of the presentation. “We actually think it’s a good thing because our guests will resonate with it more. The theatrical production of the show in that market is what they wanted to see less of.”
Manby said that approximately 22 million people have attended the company’s parks in the past year. Yet attendance at SeaWorld has declined, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which raised questions about the risks of keeping killer whales in captivity. SeaWorld has criticized the film’s depiction of its orca program and called the movie inaccurate.