2020 SXSW Conference and Festivals cancelled because of coronavirus concerns

March 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Roger Waters

The 34th annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals has been cancelled. The event was scheduled to take place from March 13 to 22, 2020, in Austin, Texas. A public health state of emergency has also been declared in the city of Austin. SXSW includes festivals for music, film and live comedy, as well as a conferences for technology, education and gaming.

Days before the cancellation, several companies pulled of out participating in the event this year, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Lionsgate, Starz, TikTok, Twitter, Vevo and WarnerMedia.

Keynote speakers who were announced for SXSW 2020 included Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, Bumble founder/CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, The Blackstone Group’s Jon Korngold, “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, DJ/producer Diplo, Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs​ and LightShed founder/creative director Gabo Arora.

Featured speakers were to include T Bone Burnett, Troy Carter, Anil Dash, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Steven Levy, Bob Odenkirk, Maria A. Ressa, Susan Rogers, Angela Roseboro, Jerry Saltz, Rhea Seehorn, M. Night Shyamalan, Nicole Wong, Stephen Colbert, Jack Dorsey, Samantha Bee, Bob Chapek, Jonathan Van Ness, Tarana Burke, Dr. Brené Brown, Dr. Werner Vogels, Lynn Shelton and Jen Wong.

Movies that were supposed to have their world premieres at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival included Paramount Pictures’ “The Lovebirds” (starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani), A24’s “The Green Knight” (starring Dev Patel) and Universal Pictures’ “The King of Staten Island,” starring Pete Davidson. The SXSW Film Festival announced that it will still give awards this year in the jury-voted categories. The films in competition are being made available online to jurors. Winners will be announced online and not at an awards ceremony.

Participants in the SXSW Comedy Festival were to include Judd Apatow, Davidson, Samantha Bee, Hannibal Buress, Joel Kim Booster, Thomas Middleditch and Horatio Sanz. And the cancellation of the SXSW Music Festival means that hundreds of upcoming artists will no longer be performing at the event this year.

The cancellation of SXSW is the largest entertainment event so far to be shut down due to coronavirus concerns. SXSW is one of Austin’s biggest sources of revenue, bringing in an estimated $355.9 million in 2019. Approximately 417,400 people attended SXSW in 2019. Over the past 10 years, the festival’s attendance and revenue had continued to grow. However, the costs of a coronavirus outbreak would be much more devastating to people’s health and well-being. Austin is not taking that risk.

Here is SXSW’s full statement about the cancellation:

“The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.

“We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.

“As recently as Wednesday [March 4, 2020], 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 honor 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 utilize 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.

“We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

Click here for an updated list of other corona virus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry.