'Blackfish' Director on SeaWorld CEO Resigning: It's "Rearranging Chairs on the Titanic"

Seaworld and Blackfish - H 2014
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Seaworld and Blackfish - H 2014

Gabriela Cowperthwaite says she doesn't see evidence the company is really changing

SeaWorld Entertainment's Jim Atchison is stepping down as CEO in a companywide restructuring announced on Thursday. But the filmmaker behind Blackfish — the documentary critical of the company — isn't particularly impressed with the change.

"As far as the restructuring, seems like they're rearranging chairs on the Titanic," Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite wrote in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't hear that they're shifting in step with an informed public. Meaningful change would involve sea sanctuaries and an entire shift toward rehab release programs. But If the new guard wants to shift the paradigm, I'm all ears."

The news comes in the wake of poor third-quarter financials for SeaWorld Entertainment and continued bad publicity following the release of Blackfish, last summer's controversial documentary about killer whales in captivity.

SeaWorld is facing a federal lawsuit accusing it of intentionally misleading investors about the impact of Blackfish on its operations.

In its restructuring, Atchison will become Vice Chairman of SeaWorld's board of directors on Jan. 15 and consult on international expansion and conservation initiatives. Chairman David F. D'Alessandro will become interim CEO until Atchison's replacement is found. SeaWorld's restructuring "will result in the loss of some positions," the company announced.

Read more SeaWorld Hit With Lawsuit Over Failure to Advise on 'Blackfish' Impact

The company's third-quarter financial results, released Nov. 12, showed year-to-date revenue losses of 8 percent and a 5.2 percent slide in park attendance. Overall revenue for the year is down 6 percent and attendance is down 4.7 percent.

In its second-quarter financial report, the company acknowledged bad publicity from Blackfish had hurt business. Third-quarter losses were attributed to costs incurred from expanding its Orlando park, low attendance and promotion offerings.

The investors' lawsuit against SeaWorld and a Dec. 2 judgment regarding an anti-SeaWorld prank from Jackass star Steve-O have kept the beleaguered company in the news.