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Blackfish Dodges a Black Eye from SeaWorld. Whatevs.

blackfish poster

If you haven’t seen this, you’re missing a bonafide Oscar-quality documentary.

Full Disclosure: I have been to SeaWorld many times. I have mini-mes who love the place.

Fuller Disclosure: I have seen Blackfish. Twice. And I may not consider going to SeaWorld again.

Fullest Disclosure: SeaWorld needs to fire whatever firm is in charge of its crisis communications because it is just too-little, way-too-late.

This Magnolia Pictures documentary is all over Netflix and it’s spreading on social media as well. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 98 percent on its beloved ‘Tomatometer.’ And 1980s retreads musical acts such as Heart and Joan Jett have backed out of SeaWorld-approved performances because of this documentary. But SeaWorld just now decided to act?!

Um, Nurse? We need a tourniquet because there is something seriously broken with this situation. STAT

This is a documentary that is causing entertainment and common folk alike to stand at attention and think twice about visiting any one of SeaWorld’s three locations in Orlando, Fla., San Diego, Calif., and San Antonio, Texas. The water park and live-in aquarium is no stranger to petitions and pickets, given PETA’s propensity to open a can of whoop @$$ (and really bad advertising) on any place that even breathes on an animal wrong.

There is no question Blackfish will win an Oscar and a truckload of other awards because it is just that gripping. Not in that ‘Catfish‘ way where you are left to consider empathizing lovers of cats, dollar-store merchandise and hoarding everywhere, but in that ‘ichthyoid‘ fashion forcing you to ponder, “That crap really happens?!” However, for a documentary that is getting this much buzz, creating that many anti-SeaWorld decisions and causing people everywhere to prairie dog their heads from above their cubes…

Blackfish-Look-into-their-eyesWhy has it taken so long for SeaWorld to respond effectively?

Our very own Elizabeth Mitchell wrote back in July about the fact that SeaWorld has fallen woefully short in the damage control department.

Isn’t that Crisis Comms 101: Respond smartly and quickly, not necessarily in that order? We, your faithful team of bloggers at PR Newser, are certain fear had everything to do with this bad decision. Sure, they tried to do something back in the summer, but (according to a detailed report by IndieWire) that was not-so-much as the movie’s production team striked back with confounding evidence to pimp-slap SeaWorld’s assertions about the film.

Since then, air silence. Until now — six months later, allowing this film to stink up the water park’s reputation like well, a dead fish. (Sorry, it’s been a long year.)

This week, SeaWorld bought full-page ads consisting of an open letter that defended their practices. You know, again. Except they were hoping people would read this one; hence, the advertising. While a couple of SeaWorld’s points are clearly factual and proven, like “SeaWorld invests millions of dollars in the care of our killer whales,” a few other statements take a little too much creative license. For example: “SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue.

And that’s what brought us here in the first place.

To the makers of film, it’s not rescue. It’s more like profiteering and kinda’ babysitting for a two-ton baby that doesn’t want to be sat. SeaWorld’s ironically named ownership group, BLACKstone (Just too close, you know? Change it to “Dave’s Whale Exchange” or something for now), bought the beleaguered water park from Anheuser-Busch for $2.3 billion in 2009, paying about $1 billion with cash and having the company borrow to cover the rest, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Blackstone finally got SeaWorld to say something on the record. With WSJSeaWorld Chief Executive Jim Atchison said last week’s advertising campaign was intended to counteract “misconceptions” about its operations. Of Blackfish, he said, “We take great issue with the film; we consider it a compilation of animal activist propaganda. “It is not a fair representation of the work we do or the care we take with our animals,” Mr. Atchison said in an interview.

Okay, but then there’s this trailer. See you at the Oscars.

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