The festival’s familiar logo.
The festival’s familiar logo.
Image: SXSW

For the first time in 34 years, there won’t be a South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin showcasing music, art, film, TV, and other media—due, of course, to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The cancellation comes after today’s earlier news that Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con would be postponed for the same reason.

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Given the number of high-profile events that have been canceled in recent days and all the big companies—including Netflix, Apple, WarnerMedia, and Twitter—that had announced they wouldn’t be attending the festival (individual artists had already begun to send regrets, too, including Nine Inch Nails, who were to chat about the Watchmen soundtrack), this news isn’t a total surprise. But it is still very disappointing for all involved, especially since as recently as Wednesday the show was apparently still going on despite all the dropouts.

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The popular festival released a statement on its website, which you can read below; it offers hope that some components of the festival may be moved online or rescheduled:

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, 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.”

As of this writing, some other major festivals are still rolling ahead as planned, including WonderCon Anaheim 2020 (which begins April 10) and the Cannes Film Festival (which begins May 12).

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