SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the theme-park operator under fire from animal activists, posted a fourth- quarter loss that exceeded analysts’ estimates as attendance fell. The stock lost as much as 4.9 percent.

The Orlando, Florida-based company on Thursday reported a loss of 21 cents a share, excluding items, compared with the 15- cent loss projected by analysts. Revenue shrank 2.7 percent to $264.5 million, beating the $252.6 million average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The company battled a drop in attendance during a typically slow quarter for theme-park operators, and incurred expenses such as severance pay related to longer-term efforts to lower costs. Attendance at SeaWorld has been hurt by a 2013 documentary called “Blackfish” that argued the company’s performing killer whales shouldn’t be kept in captivity.

SeaWorld fell 3.9 percent to $19.55 at 11:12 a.m. in New York after declining to a low of $19.35. The company said it will provide 2015 guidance with the next earnings release.

Since the film’s release, entertainers such as Willie Nelson have canceled park appearances and marketing partners including Southwest Airlines Co. have ended their relationships. SeaWorld’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison stepped aside last month.

Attendance for the quarter fell to 4.4 million visitors from 4.5 million a year earlier, SeaWorld said. The company owns 11 theme parks in the U.S.

Some of the negative trends seen in the third quarter have begun to ease, SeaWorld said Thursday. Guest spending rose 2 percent, according to the statement.

“We are making progress on our search for a new CEO and are on pace to complete the process within the six to nine month time frame we originally estimated,” David D’Alessandro, chairman an interim chief, said in the statement. “On the operational side, we are starting to see early signs of improvement in our business trends.”

This article was written by Christopher Palmeri from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Photo Credit: Tillikum, a killer whale at SeaWorld amusement park, performs during the show "Believe" in Orlando, in this September 3, 2009 file photo. Mathieu Belange / Reuters