CNN's premiere of the award-winning documentary "Blackfish" last Thursday evening paid off with strong ratings and impressive domination in coveted advertising demographics. The network, which has been trying to mix up its content to attract younger audiences, swept the 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ratings among every group under 55 years old. In the online world, "Blackfish" became the second most mentioned cable program on Twitter and #1 in page views among all CNN films this year.

In an interview with MNN's Gerri Miller earlier this month, "Blackfish" Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite revealed that she was "shocked" by what she discovered after pulling back the curtain on SeaWorld.

"I think once you hear what really goes on there with the trainers and the whales, you know that nothing there is what it seems and you feel driven to spread the word, to tell people what they’re really seeing when they go to these parks," she said.

Cowperthwaite, who earlier this summer screened the film for Pixar employees (as a result the studio changed the ending to the much-anticipated "Finding Nemo" sequel), says there's still an opportunity for SeaWorld to redeem itself.

"I think it’s very clear that killer whales are not suited to captivity," she told MNN. "I think there’s no place for animals in entertainment in our culture anymore. And I think SeaWorld has the financial resources to evolve out of animal entertainment into sea sanctuaries, which are much more dignified and sustainable way of watching whales."

She added: "There the whales can be killer whales for the first time in their lives. It can be a profit-making endeavor for SeaWorld. But it’s such a drastic business model shift that it would not be a small undertaking. But the bottom line is that’s where the world is moving and if they want to be left behind, so be it. They have the opportunity to be leaders in this. It’s their choice."

Check out a "Blackfish" encore on CNN, airing Nov. 2 at 9 p.m. ET.

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

'Blackfish' gives big ratings splash to CNN
Documentary about captive killer whales gives network a rare win against cable news rivals.