Pat Benatar, Beach Boys join ‘Blackfish’ cancellation list

Story highlights

Beach Boys, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo cancel Busch Gardens Tampa shows

Benatar said she canceled after realizing Busch Gardens affiliated with SeaWorld

The controversy is "based on misinformation," Busch Gardens says

CNN's "Blackfish" documentary focused on SeaWorld's treatment of orcas

CNN  — 

The “Blackfish” controversy that torpedoed SeaWorld’s Orlando concert series has now sunk some shows at Busch Gardens Tampa.

“We regret to announce that the Beach Boys and Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo have canceled their performances at Bands, Brew & BBQ this year, but we respect their decision,” a Busch Gardens Tampa spokesman said Thursday. “We’re disappointed that there is a media controversy enacted by animal activists and based on misinformation.”

Busch Gardens Tampa is owned by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, which has been targeted by animal rights activists since the airing of the documentary “Blackfish” on CNN last October.

A long list of musical acts have canceled shows that were scheduled as part of SeaWorld’s “Bands, Blues & BBQ” in February and March.

Benatar said in a statement to CNN that she canceled her February 22 show once she realized that Busch Gardens was affiliated with SeaWorld. “In light of this we have opted to cancel our February 22, 2014, performance at Busch Gardens in Tampa.”

The Beach Boys issued a short statement: “The Beach Boys have cancelled their performance on February 15, 2014. The band regrets any inconvenience this may have caused their fans and they look forward to returning to Tampa soon.”

‘Blackfish’ backlash

The entertainers’ exodus from SeaWorld’s calendar began soon after CNN broadcast the documentary “Blackfish” in October. The film tells the story of the killing of a SeaWorld trainer by an orca in 2010. It raises questions about the safety and humaneness of keeping killer whales in captivity.

Online petitions and social media postings targeted the acts who had signed on to play at the park.

Acts that have canceled SeaWorld shows include Trace Adkins, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Cheap Trick, Heart, Barenaked Ladies, Martina McBride and 38 Special. Only Justin Moore and Scotty McCreery remain from the original list of acts on the event calendar. Their representatives have not responded to CNN’s repeated requests for comment.

The Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies was the first to cancel, reacting to a petition posted on

“This is a complicated issue, and we don’t claim to understand all of it, but we don’t feel comfortable proceeding with the gig at this time,” the band said on its Facebook page.

“I don’t agree with the way they treat their animals,” Willie Nelson said on December 6 when he canceled. “It wasn’t that hard a deal for me.”

Sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart did not elaborate last month when they announced their decision to cancel at SeaWorld, although they acknowledged it was “due to the controversial documentary film.”

SeaWorld’s defense

SeaWorld said it would like the musical artists to learn for themselves about SeaWorld.

“The bands and artists have a standing invitation to visit any of our parks to see firsthand or to speak to any of our animal experts to learn for themselves how we care for animals and how little truth there is to the allegations made by animal extremist groups opposed to the zoological display of marine mammals,” Gollattscheck said.

SeaWorld says the documentary ignores the park’s conservation efforts and research.

“More than 11 million people a year visit SeaWorld parks and most will see a killer whale presentation during their visit,” Gollattscheck said.  “Over the course of our 50-year history hundreds of millions of people have experienced killer whales in our parks.  There is tremendous appeal in that kind of inspirational and educational experience and we anticipate that killer whale display will continue for generations to come.”

Thursday’s announcement is the first word of cancellations at affiliated parks. The controversy did not appear to dampen the profits of the parent company. 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.

“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.

CNN’s Cristy Lenz, Carolyn Sung, Jane Caffrey and Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.