The City of Austin, Texas, March 6 formally canceled permits for the South by Southwest (SXSW) and SXSW EDU confabs, slated for March 13-22, due to growing concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19). Organizers said they would “faithfully” follow the city’s directions.
“We are devastated to share this news with you,” read a statement. “‘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 March 4, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, the situation evolved rapidly after 19 confirmed cases for the virus were diagnosed in Texas.
The virus, which has no known cure, has infected more 100,000 people globally and killed upwards of 3,100 people. In the U.S. there have been 15 deaths attributed to coronavirus, in addition to about 300 cases.
President Trump March 6 signed an emergency $8.3 billion spending package to combat the virus.
With myriad high-profile companies, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, WarnerMedia Entertainment and others, pulling out of the event over safety concerns for their employees, it seemed just a matter of time before the event would be canceled.
Organizers said they 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.
Like San Diego Comic-Con International and other media gatherings, SXSW had become a platform for studios, digital media companies to announce projects across all distribution channels, including home entertainment.
The festival is also an opportunity for local businesses, venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely on the increased business that 400,000 attendees generate.
“We understand the gravity of the situation,” read the statement, underscoring that the decision to cancel was out of organizers’ hands.
“We honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision, read the statement. “We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites. We continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”