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SXSW cancelled over coronavirus fears

The 2020 South By Southwest (SXSW) festival has been cancelled, as confirmed cases of coronavirus – aka Covid-19 – have hit 100,000 worldwide.

The festival announced the decision on Friday (March 6), after companies including HBO, Amazon, WarnerMedia, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and Apple all pulled out of attending the event, which was due to take place in Austin, Texas from March 13 to 22.

In Canada, meanwhile, organisers of the Canadian Screen Awards, which take place in Toronto from March 23 to 29, today told C21 the awards show would be going ahead as planned.

The news comes as Covid-19 continues to dramatically impact the global TV industry. SXSW 2019 had a total attendance of 417,400, making the cancellation of the 2020 event one of the biggest to hit the entertainment business to date.

It follows on the heels of the nixing of France’s MipTV and Canneseries this week; as well as Greece’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival; and the postponement of Rai TV’s Cartoons on the Bay in Italy.

Other TV industry events to be cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns include Geneva’s International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, APOS 2020 in Asia, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and Hong Kong’s International Film & TV Market (Filmart), among many others.

Prior to SXSW’s decision to cancel, the fest’s episodic section had been essentially gutted and significant chunks of its film programming had been axed, with Apple pulling titles including Central Park, Boys State, Home and Spike Jonze documentary Beastie Boys Story; Netflix cancelling screenings of Uncorked, LA Originals, A Secret Love and Have a Good Trip; Amazon nixing screenings of Upload and Tales From the Loop; and HBO cancelling all of its on-the-ground activations.

In a statement, SXSW organisers said: “As recently as Wednesday [March 4], Austin Public Health stated that ‘there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.’ However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honour and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.

“We are 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. For our registrants, clients and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.

“We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilise SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.”


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