SXSW festival officially canceled over coronavirus concerns
Concerns over the coronavirus spread have officially derailed the 2020 South by Southwest music and film festival.
The city of Austin issued an order Friday effectively forcing the gathering's cancellation, Mayor Steve Adler announced in a press conference. Festival organizers said in a statement, "SXSW will faithfully follow the City's directions."
Local officials said there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19, in Travis County, where Austin is located.
In recent weeks, various studios and companies had already made the decision to pull out of the annual event, which typically features premiere screenings, panels, and, of course, the music festival itself.
As recently as Wednesday, Dr. Mark Escott, director of Austin Public Health, said in a press conference that canceling "mass events" like SXSW wouldn't necessarily improve safety conditions for the community. "If there's any evidence that our community will be safer by closing down public events, we will do that," he said at the time.
TV and film studios had already been quietly canceling plans until Amazon Studios became the first big name from the Hollywood sector to pull its planned presence, which included screenings and panels for two of its shows. Soon after, Netflix, Apple, and WarnerMedia (which includes HBO, HBO Max, and CNN) followed suit. Facebook and Twitter were also among the companies bailing.
Initially, a rep for SXSW told EW at the end of February that the festival would be "proceeding as planned" from March 13 to 22, though organizers would "continue to monitor the situation closely" as they work with Austin Public Health to increase "efforts to prevent the spread of germs."
SXSW organizers said Friday they would be "exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU."
In the wake of the festival's cancellation, Kumail Nanjiani, the actor, writer, and comedian who was slated to be a featured speaker, tweeted that SXSW is one of his "favorite festivals" but canceling it was "the responsible thing" to do. He added, "I know this sucks for many people for whom this was a massive opportunity. But we're kind of in an unprecedented situation here and caution is key. Thank you for making the right decision."
Meanwhile, studios continue to re-evaluate the situation with COVID-19 on a day-by-day basis. The next area of concern seems to be CinemaCon, which brings together movie theater owners from March 30 to April 2 and typically welcomes early looks at upcoming films. Sony hadn't planned on bringing any sneak peeks to the convention this year, even before the coronavirus situation. As of now, however, plans seem to remain on track.