Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
Two killer whales fly out of the water during a show at SeaWorld Orlando's Shamu Stadium in 2010.
The documentary film “Blackfish” takes on SeaWorld by telling the story of an Orca whale’s fatal attack on a trainer at the theme park. Many Oscar-watchers were surprised when “BlackFish” failed to win an Oscar nomination. But the surprise was a pleasant one to SeaWorld and its investors.
The documentary premiered at Sundance a year ago and saw a wider U.S. release in July, just three months after SeaWorld began trading as a public company. When the list of Oscar-nominated documentaries came out Thursday without “Blackfish” on it, SeaWorld’s stock price jumped more than 8 percent.
Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder called the jump in his Thursday research note:
SEAS shares will likely see a pop today due to the Blackfish documentary not receiving an Academy Award nomination for best documentary (we totally agree with the Academy on this one!). We believe that investors overwhelmingly expected Blackfish to receive a nomination.
Filmmaker and marketing strategist Jon Reiss said if SeaWorld and its investors are breathing a sigh of relief, it's because of the power of an Oscar nomination for a documentary. He said it's like a free multi-million dollar ad campaign.
"Millions more people will become aware of a film for free, basically, just by the nomination," said Reiss, the author of Think Outside the Box Office. "You know it can raise the value of a film, which is that much more valuable for a film with very minimal resources. 'American Hustle' is going to do better because of its Oscar nominations, but it was already doing pretty well."
But Reiss said SeaWorld isn’t completely out of the woods. He said plenty of documentaries do well without Oscar nominations, and he expects “Blackfish” to be one of them.