SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., criticized by animal-rights groups over its use of killer whales in shows, reported third-quarter profit that fell more than analysts estimated as fewer tourists visited during the peak season.

Earnings excluding some items shrank to $1.01 a share, Orlando, Florida-based SeaWorld said today in a statement. The per-share results missed the $1.13 average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue fell to $495.8 million, missing projections of $496.4 million.

Attendance was 8.4 million, a half million fewer than a year earlier. The decline for the third quarter, typically the biggest of the year for SeaWorld, underscored the impact the company is experiencing since the release of “Blackfish,” a critical documentary about its performing orcas. Three airlines have cut ties to the theme-park operator in recent months.

SeaWorld shares fell 3.5 percent to $17.94 at 7:33 a.m. in early trading in New York. The shares of the company, which is 22 percent owned by the private equity firm Blackstone Group LP, have declined 35 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Golum in Los Angeles at rgolum@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net. 

Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines celebrated 25 years of partnership with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, on Thursday, June 20, 2013. It severed the relationship this summer. Stephen M. Keller / Southwest Airlines