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.

2019 South by Southwest: What to expect at this year’s SXSW event

March 6, 2019

by Carla Hay

SXSW 2019

The “Ready Player One” activation at SXSW 2018 (Photo by Alexa Gonzalez Wagner)

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals (held every year in Austin, Texas) is arguably the best-known event in the U.S. that combines music, film, interactive and convergence programming. The 33rd annual SXSW event takes place from March 8 to March 17, 2019.

Here are some of the anticipated highlights of the festival:

Keynote and Featured Speakers

The lineup of SXSW keynote speakers includes:

  • Actress/filmmaker Olivia Wilde
  • Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter T Bone Burnett
  • Quibi co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman
  • Beastie Boys co-founders Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond
  • Shirley Manson​ (lead singer of Garbage) and ​Lauren Mayberry​ (lead singer of Chvrches) in a keynote conversation
  • Kevin Systrom​ (co-founder/CEO of Instagram) with ​Josh Constine (editor-in-chief of TechCrunch) in a keynote conversation
  • BuzzFeed co-founder/CEO Jonah Peretti
  • Marti Noxon (writer/producer, whose credits include HBO’s “Sharp Objects” and Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce”)
  • William Morris Endeavor chief marketing officer Bozama Saint John and supermodel Ashley Graham in a keynote conversation
  • Emmy- and Grammy-winning comedian Kathy Griffin
  • Tech entrepreneur Joseph Lubin

Featured speakers include:

  • Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster
  • Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss in conversation with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile
  • Movie/TV producer Jason Blum
  • Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean
  • U.S. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
  • TV journalist Katie Couric,
  • Former Starbucks chairman/CEO Howard Schultz
  • BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) founder Bjarke Ingels​,
  • Singer/songwriter David Byrne
  • #MeToo activist Susan Fowler,
  • Singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer
  • Actress/filmmaker Zoe Saldana
  • Sci-fi writer/producer Neil Gaiman
  • ABBA co-founder Björn Ulvaeus
  • Emmy-winning actor Henry Winkler
  • Georgia politician Stacey Abrams
  • Singer/producer Lance Bass
  • Author/journalist Malcolm Gladwell
  • Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser​
  • BenevolentAI CEO Joanna Shields
  • Future Today Institute founder Amy Webb
  • Author/journalist Michael Pollan

Music Performances

Khalid performs onstage at Sony Event during SXSW at Trinity Warehouse on March 15, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW)

There are about 2,000 artists who perform at SXSW every year. In 2019, some of the biggest names include Khalid, Billie Eilish, Bully, Dan the Automator, Dreezy, Lizzo, Laura Jane Grace and Lukas Nelson.

Movie and TV Premieres

Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o and Evan Alex in “Us” (Photo by (Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures)

SXSW has a wide variety of feature-length and short films. Here are some of the more high-profile feature films that will have their world premieres at the festival:  the horror movie “Us,” from writer/director Jordan Peele and starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke; the stoner comedy “The Beach Bum,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron and Snoop Dogg; the teen comedy “Booksmart,” the feature directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde; the drama “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” starring Shia LeBeouf and Dakota Johnson; and the comedy “Long Shot,” starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. Documentary films that will have their world premieres at SXSW 2019 include “Running With Beto,” about Texas politician’s Beto O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate campaign in the 2018 mid-term elections; the concert film “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story”; and “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter,” which reports on the controversial case of a teenager who pressured her boyfriend to commit suicide.

TV shows that will have episodes premiering at SXSW 2019 include Taika Waititi’s “What We Do in the Shadows,” a FX vampire comedy series based on his 2014 film of the same name; the final three episodes of Comedy Central’s “Broad City”; the premiere episode of Hulu’s “Shrill,” starring “Saturday Night Live” cast member Aidy Bryant; and the premiere episode of OWN’s “David Meets Man,” the first TV project from Oscar-winning “Moonlight” screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Comedy Performances and Q&As

Kathy Griffin in “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” (Photo by Tanne Willow)

Participants in the 2019 SXSW Comedy Festival include Kathy Griffin; Trevor Noah and other stars of “The Daily Show”; Doug Benson; Todd Glass;  Busy Phillips; Ricky Velez; Upright Citizen’s Brigade​ co-founder Matt Besser; and “Broad City stars” Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.

Showcases include “The New Negroes with Baron Vaughn and Open Mike Eagle,” ​a new stand-up and musical series which premieres on Comedy Central this spring. There will also be the musical comedy showcase Riffs and Riff Raff with Nick Thune & Friends. Paul F. Tompkins ​will host the variety show “​Dynasty Typewriter Presents That’s Enchantertainment!​,” and there will be another Roast Battle this year.