Roku, Best Buy Partner for SXSW Confab Exhibit March 11-12

Roku is partnering with Best Buy to host its first-ever South by Southwest (SXSW) conference pop-up display, “Roku City featuring the Best Buy Home Theater Experience.” Roku City refers to a screensaver on Roku smart-TV devices and televisions that displays a pink, blue and purple cityscape featuring various movie references.

The activation will be open to the public March 11-12 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., local time (CT). The pop-up will be located at the Riley Building at 315 Lavaca Street in Austin.

The multi-story building display aims to bring “Roku City” to life as an interactive experience. During SXSW, attendees will be able to step “inside” the screensaver where they can:

  • stop in at the Roku City Style Shop and choose a new look featuring creative, purple accents;
  • reserve a booth at the Roku City Rooftop Diner via OpenTable and find movie and TV references hidden within the diner’s pop-up menu; and
  • relax at the Best Buy Home Theater Experience to check out the latest Roku devices available at Best Buy and new Roku Originals and entertainment on The Roku Channel.


The opening of Roku City offers an opportunity to “spark conversations” around the ways brands can activate based on organic feedback from their audiences, while also exploring the continued value of IRL experiences in an increasingly digital-first world, according to Roku.

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“There’s so much more to streaming than shows or movies punctuated by ad breaks,” Damon Van Deusen, VP of global brand and creative for Roku, said in a statement. “We’re excited to invite everyone to step into [that] world for the first time at SXSW.”

“Any opportunity to work with a partner like Best Buy is exciting,” added Julian Mintz, co-head of U.S. brand sales for Roku. “Our brands share a deep passion for entertainment.”

Warner Acquires Feature ‘The Fallout’ for HBO Max

Warner Bros. Pictures has acquired worldwide rights to the SXSW multiple-award-winning feature The Fallout for HBO Max.

Written and directed by Megan Park in her feature filmmaking debut, the film won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards for Narrative Feature, and Park won the Brightcove Illumination Award honoring a filmmaker on the rise at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. The film will release exclusively on HBO Max where available globally and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures in the balance of international markets.

The cast includes Jenna Ortega, along with Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Will Ropp, Lumi Pollack, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen and Shailene Woodley.

The story follows high schooler Vada (Ortega) as she navigates the emotional fallout she experiences in the wake of a school tragedy. Relationships with her family and friends, as well as her view of the world, are forever altered.

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“Making The Fallout was a journey I never expected to take and one that has changed me forever,” stated Park. “If by seeing this film just one teen feels less alone, less afraid, or somehow understood, that will make the journey worth every step.”

“What Megan Park has created with The Fallout is a sensitive and moving story, marking a stunning debut behind the camera, with an exceptional young cast led by a revelatory and powerful performance by Jenna Ortega and an emotionally impactful turn from Maddie Ziegler,” Carolyn Blackwood, COO of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said in a statement.

“We shot the film during the height of COVID, and despite all the stoppages and setbacks, we knew we had to tell this story now. HBO Max is the perfect home for this film, and we are pleased to be working with the whole team at Warner Bros. to bring the film to audiences around the world,” stated producers Shaun Sanghani, David Brown, Rebecca Miller and Cara Shine.

The Fallout was produced by Shaun Sanghani of SSS Entertainment and David Brown of Clear Horizon alongside Rebecca Miller, Cara Shine and Todd Lundbohm. Joannie Burstein and Giulia Prenna also produced.

SXSW Prize Winner ‘S#!%house’ Due on DVD and Blu-ray May 18 From IFC

The comedic romance S#!%house will come out on DVD and Blu-ray May 18 from IFC Films.

The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

In the film, lonely college freshman Alex (writer/directory Cooper Raiff) has closed himself off from his peers who all appear to have college figured out. But everything changes one night when he takes a leap and attends a party at S#!%house — a legendary party fraternity — where he forges a strong connection with Maggie (Dylan Gelula, First Girl I Loves). The next day, she ignores him completely and seems to have forgotten about their amazing night. Desperately clinging to his social breakthrough, Alex pulls out all the stops with one more night at the fraternity, hoping to rekindle that moment of connection.

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HBO Max ‘Orbit’ Launching at SXSW Online March 19

WarnerMedia will launch an interactive digital experience to promote its HBO Max streaming service at SXSW Online 2021 on March 19. The “HBO Max Orbit” experience is designed to introduce audiences to the streamer’s universe of content using cutting-edge, emerging technology.

The “Max Orbit” experience responds to facial movements and voice prompts from audiences as they explore and interact with thousands of movie and TV show moments, characters, and stories. In the experience, users will be able to explore Max’s library — titles from HBO, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC, and Cartoon Network, among others. More than 150,000 scenes clipped from Max series and films, including “Game of Thrones,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Love Life,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Looney Tunes Show,” Tom and Jerry, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, will be integrated into the online experience and accessible with a nod of the head or a few spoken words.

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Max Orbit will also feature interactive design elements for Godzilla vs. Kong as a nod to the pending film debuting March 31 in theaters and on Max. While at Max Orbit, festival attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a “flock to unlock” challenge starting at noon ET March 19 to unlock an exclusive clip with never-before-seen scenes from the film.

The Max Orbit technology will respond to how a user is moving their face and will surface clips of characters matching their movements in real time. Specific clips in the SXSW Online experience will trigger “challenge mode,” which prompts users to move their face to find clips that match a certain title on screen or use their voice to utter a phrase from a specific show within a timed window. Successful completion of these challenges unlocks frames from the exclusive clip.

“The pandemic has forced brands from all sectors to reimagine experiential marketing and devise new ways to engage and delight users with content,” Jason Mulderig, SVP of brand marketing for HBO Max, said in a statement.

Experience design firm Hush developed the digital/physical experience and the Max Orbit technology for both the Web and retail flagships, which leveraged a bespoke content ingestion pipeline that uses machine learning to process hundreds of terabytes of content to power the user experience.

“Strategically, we were able to lean into the fact that HBO Max’s library is unparalleled in quality and scale,” David Schwarz, HUSH Partner, said in a statement, adding that the exhibit needed to be functionally intuitive and fast, but also dreamlike, extemporaneous and unexpected.

“The best [content] explorers in history didn’t change their world, they just found beautiful ways through it,” Schwarz said.

Following its SXSW Online debut, an in-person version of Max Orbit will open in select AT&T flagship stores starting in April. The AT&T 5G-powered retail experience will exist within a 360-degree chamber, integrated into the existing layout of the store and designed to optimize the feeling of a vast audio-visual space.

WarnerMedia Announces SXSW Online 2021 Content, Panel Slate

WarnerMedia is bowing WarnerMedia Rise, a virtual showcase of exclusive content, at the upcoming SXSW Online 2021 confab, March 16-20. The showcase will be the home for all WarnerMedia content, including screenings and panel discussions, with presentations and appearances by storytellers and talent. The immersive digital experience seeks to elevate diverse voices, stories and culture.

Each day will feature an event host, guiding viewers through the digital experience with curated content and sessions aligned to three key themes: “Closer to Your Heroes,” “Future Realities” and “Culture in Motion.” All content featured within the showcase will be made available to the public until March 20including those without registration to SXSW Online 2021.

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Below is a schedule of programming and what to expect at WarnerMedia Rise:

March 16: Closer to Your Heroes

  • Panel: Adult Swim – Animating from Home
  • Sneak Peak: Adult Swim – Birdgirl
  • Panel: WarnerMedia Corporate Social Responsibility – Driving Cultural Conversations on Social Issues
  • Panel: DC – BAWSE: Women of Color in the DC Universe
  • Panel: Turner Sports – Bracketology with Andy Katz
  • Screening: Stage 13 – Behind the Scenes of Snatchers
  • Panel: DC – NUBIA: Real One – The Storytellers Who Re-Introduced Wonder Woman’s Sister
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – The Rise of WarnerMedia: Marketing, Communications, and PR Heroes Behind the Brand


March 17: Future Realities

  • Panel: HBO – Lovecraft Country Radio: Enhancing the Storytelling Experience
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – The Rise of HBO Max/CNN Digital: Streaming Through the Eyes of Engineers
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – Sound On: Audio and Podcast Production Chat
  • Panel: Stage 13 – Family Style: Surviving Production During the Pandemic
  • Panel: Warner Bros. Television – From STEM to Hollywood


March 18: Culture in Motion

  • Sneak Peek: Adult Swim – Tuca & Bertie
  • Panel: HBO Max – It’s A Sin – A Conversation with the Cast
  • Panel: WarnerMedia – Who Tells the Story
  • Panel: WarnerMedia – Emerging Voices of Color in Film
  • Exclusive Trailer Release: TBS – CHAD
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – The Rise of Culture and Belonging
  • Panel: Stage 13 – Two Sentence Horror Stories:  Using Horror to Address Societal Issues


Additional details are available on the WarnerMedia Rise agenda.

In addition to WarnerMedia Rise, the media company is participating in SXSW Online 2021 official programming:

March 16

  • Fireside Chat: HBO Max – LGBTQ+ Representation in TV: Genera+ion & It’s A Sin
  • Panel: Crunchyroll and Adult Swim – Animating Resilience
  • Panel: HBO – Driving Innovation Through Emerging Tech with HBO
  • Panel: CNN – Impacts of Activism


March 17

  • World Premiere: HBO Max – Made for Love
  • Panel: CNN – Immunized – COVID-19 and the Race for a Vaccine
  • Panel: HBO Max – Made for Love Q&A


March 18

  • Panel: TBS – Homeroom with Nasim Pedrad, Creator of TBS’s New Comedy Series CHAD


March 19

  • Panel: TBS – Late Night Girls Club: Samantha Bee & Amber Ruffin
  • Panel: CNN – Charles Yu in Conversation with Lisa Ling


March 20

  • Panel: Turner Sports – Amplifying Athlete Voices Off the Court


Schedule to be announced

  • World Premiere: HBO – The Last Cruise
  • Screening: HBO – In the Same Breath

Fandor Returning to SXSW Online 2021 to Celebrate 10 Years Streaming Independent Cinema

Fandor, a unit of Cinedigm streaming independent movies, is returning to SXSW Online 2021, March 16-20, to celebrate 10 years operating as a subscription streaming video service.

Originally introduced in 2011 at the annual Austin, Texas-based media event, Fandor is preparing to launch its next chapter after being acquired in January by Cinedigm. Currently offering thousands of titles across myriad genres, Fandor will soon be available with an updated app as part of the relaunch.

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As part of the anniversary event, Fandor will offer an exclusive screening of Sex, Drugs, and Bicycles from filmmaker Jonathan Blank. The film is a funny and provocative exposé on Holland’s social democracy and will be available to stream throughout the duration of SXSW.

Cinedigm plans to leverage the Fandor library, technology, engineering and distribution capabilities to its global footprint of more than 900 million connected devices. The home entertainment distributor/OTT video operator anticipates Fandor could reach seven figure subscriber levels within the next 24 to 30 months.

Fandor plans to stream titles from The Film Detective, which it acquired in December 2020. Cinedigm also plans on ramping up new and existing content partnerships, in addition to relaunching “Keyframe,” Fandor’s digital publication of written articles and video essays dedicated to covering the art of cinema. The goal is to relaunch the service in the coming quarter.

“We intend to assemble an editorial team of film bloggers from around the globe and work with film festivals and independent producers to build a united form of independent cinema discovery,” Phil Hopkins, president of Fandor and The Film Detective, said in a statement.

Cinedigm will continue to offer the service ad-free for a fee, but also plans to offer a free, ad-supported on-demand tier as well as a linear streaming channel to further broaden the service’s reach to audiences of all viewing preferences.

South By Southwest Confab Going Virtual Only

The annual South By Southwest Conference and Festivals Feb. 1 announced that Brightcove has been chosen as the official video partner for the all-digital event, which, for the first time, will be completely virtual and streamed to attendees around the globe March 16 to 20.

In past years, Austin, Texas-based SXSW showcased Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, WarnerMedia and other Hollywood studios showcasing new content, including home entertainment. The event also provided an opportunity for local businesses, venues, theaters, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that relied on the increased business that 400,000 attendees generated.

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SXSW Online said it would bring together “creative thinkers” from all facets of the entertainment, media, and technology industries through a diverse combination of pre-recorded and live programming, providing up to 650 hours of content to online attendees. SXSW Online will span five different channels, emulating SXSW stages from years past, and give attendees the ability to switch channels for different content in real-time, one major benefit of at-home streaming.

“This has been such a time of change and we, like the entire world, are reshaping our perspective on how we connect with attendees,” Roland Swenson, CEO and co-founder of SXSW, said in a statement. “Given the obstacles faced in 2020 and beyond, there has never been a more critical time to come together to address some of the most important societal issues and challenges that lie ahead.

“We’re excited to work with Brightcove to bring everyone a seamless digital experience at SXSW Online this March. As a leader in the video industry, Brightcove will help us meet our goals while expanding the reach and capacity of SXSW’s programming.”


City of Austin, Texas, Cancels SXSW Media Festival

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.

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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.

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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.”


Apple, Netflix, WarnerMedia Pull Out of SXSW Media Festival

Apple (Apple TV+), Netflix and WarnerMedia Entertainment are the latest high-profile media companies to cite the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) for nixing plans to attend the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, slated for March 13-22 in Austin, Texas.

Founded in 1987, South by Southwest is an annual conglomeration of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences increasingly attended by major media companies, including studios, to announce products, content, including home entertainment. Organizers say upwards of 200,000 people attended the event in 2019.

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Netflix was set to unveil five films at SXSW, including LA Originals, a documentary exploring the culture and landmarks of the Chicano and street art movement. The SVOD pioneer also had March 15 panel scheduled for “#BlackExcellence,” a family comedy series starring Rashida Jones and based in part on series creator’s Kenya Barris’ life.

Netflix’s decision comes about a month ahead of its branded stand-up comedy “Netflix Is a Joke Festival” in Los Angeles.

Apple was slated to screen upcoming Apple TV+ content, Beastie Boys Story, from director Spike Jonze; Sundance acquisition Boys Slate and series, “Central Park” and “Home.”

The companies join a growing list of media organizations opting not to send staff and talent to public events as a precaution. France’s annual MipTV 2020 confab in Cannes has been cancelled due to a government current order prohibiting large-scale public events.

California Governor Gavin Newsom March 4 declared a state of emergency following the death of an elderly woman near Sacramento. There are now 160 reported coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 11 deaths.

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Austin Public Health, which is testing one possible coronavirus patient, contends the risk to exposure at SXSW and within Austin remains low. Texas has 12 confirmed cases of the virus thus far.

“Today the threat of community spread in Austin remains low, however, we are prepared for it to happen here,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said in a press conference.

“Right now, there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer. We are constantly monitoring that situation.”

Escott said Austin Public Health would continue to evaluate situation, adding that any evidence that the community would be safer by closing down public events, “we’ll do that.”

CNN just launched a pop-up podcast, “Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction,” with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, covering the latest news of the COVID-19 virus and what people can do safeguard themselves.

Meanwhile, with increased numbers of events being cancelled due to virus concerns, the airline industry reported it expects to lose $63 billion to $113 billion in revenue from global passenger traffic in 2020.

The news nixed brief Wall Street gains with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 500 points and the S&P down more than 1%.

Amazon Studios Pulls Out of SXSW as Calls Grow to Cancel Annual Media Festival

Amazon Studios has become the latest media company to pull out of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, March 13-22, in Austin, Texas.

Amazon joins Facebook, Twitter, Mashable, TikTok, Dell, Intel, China Gathering and other companies that are dropping out of SXSW over concerns of the coronavirus’ possible impact on company employees.

To date, more than 91,000 people globally have been infected with 3,100 deaths attributed to the disease. There are more than 100 confirmed cases in the United States, including nine deaths.

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Amazon, which just disclosed that an employee in its Seattle headquarters had contracted the COVID-19 virus, had planned to unveil several projects through its Prime Video unit, including a co-promotion with Entertainment Weekly.

“Due to health concerns Amazon Prime Video has decided to pull back from the festival and will be cancelling all activities, including the Blue Room Photo/Video Studio over the weekend and the Entertainment Weekly party on Sat evening,” the publication said in a statement. “We regret any inconvenience this may cause. The health of our team members and guests is our priority. Thank you for your understanding.”

Despite an online petition and calls from some, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to cancel this year’s festival, organizers say the show will go on. Indeed, the show actually pushed-back with the March 2 announcement of new big-name speakers, including former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

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In a statement on its website, organizers said they are working “closely on a daily basis” with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event.

“As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority,” SXSW said in a statement. “We hope that people follow the science, implement the recommendations of public health agencies, and continue to participate in the activities that make our world connected.”

In addition to festivals, Sony Pictures shuttered three offices in Europe (Paris, London and Gdynia, Poland) due to coronavirus concerns.

Microsoft canceled its “Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Summit,” slated for March 16 in Seattle. The Google I/O developers conference, May 12-14 in Mountain View, Calif., also has been canceled.