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Despite 'Blackfish,' SeaWorld expects record revenue for 2013

By Vivian Kuo, CNN
January 13, 2014 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Preliminary results suggest SeaWorld will have $1.46 billion in revenue, a record
  • Attendance numbers, particularly in 4th quarter, boost 50-year-old company's gains
  • "Blackfish" raised questions about captive orcas, resulting in concert cancellations
  • SeaWorld says rehabilitation program has rescued more than 23,000 animals

(CNN) -- Propelled by fourth-quarter attendance, SeaWorld expects an estimated $1.46 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2013, the company announced Monday.

The results, while preliminary, are expected to be a record for the 50-year-old company. SeaWorld reported total revenue in 2012 of $1.42 billion, according to SEC filings.

Strong attendance numbers at its flagship locations in Orlando, Florida, San Diego, California and San Antonio, Texas, among others, helped boost the marine park's gains, despite criticism sparked by a recent documentary that raised questions about killer whales in captivity.

"Blackfish," directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and acquired by CNN at the Sundance Film Festival, first aired on October 24.

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Since then, at least nine musical acts, including Trace Adkins, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Heart, Cheap Trick and Barenaked Ladies, have canceled planned concert appearances at the park while other artists, such as Joan Jett and Edgar Winter, have asked that their music no longer be used in shows featuring the sound-sensitive orcas.

SeaWorld has said "Blackfish" focuses on only a handful of events from the park's history and ignores its contributions to education, preservation and animal research.

In a news release, the company noted SeaWorld's animal rehabilitation program has rescued more than 23,000 animals as of late last year.

"We are very pleased with our fourth quarter performance, particularly for the SeaWorld-branded parks in Orlando and San Diego, which helped us to achieve record revenue for the year," said SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. President and CEO Jim Atchison in a news release.

"The success of the SeaWorld parks in 2013 suggests that the extraordinary experience offered in these parks is as meaningful today as at any point in our history. But as strong as last year was for us, we are looking forward to another great year in 2014."

CNN Money's Caleb Silver contributed to this report.

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