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.

 

SyFy, NBC Universal Bowing ‘Eleven Eleven’ VR Project at SXSW Festival

SyFy channel along with NBC Universal March 5 announced they will bow the “Eleven Eleven” virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) series later this month at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas.

Produced in collaboration with VFX studio Digital Domain, “Eleven Eleven” will be available for both tethered and mobile VR headsets and related AR devices.

“With Eleven Eleven, we are pioneering an innovative scripted format for science fiction content that blends the best of theatre, gaming and cinema to create unique VR and AR experiences,” Steve Patscheck, EVP global programming at NBC Universal International Networks, said in a statement. “By creating an original piece of IP, Syfy was able to design specifically for VR and AR, all the while exploring how immersive technologies could heighten the thrill of storytelling.”

Sky will distribute the series through European regions (Germany, Italy, Spain) via Sky VR Studios.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Syfy and NBC Universal International Networks on Eleven Eleven,” said Neil Graham, executive producer for Sky VR Studios. “It is a truly innovative VR experience and a brilliant step forward in our growing range of VR content.”

 

‘Star Wars’ at SXSW

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment debuted the documentary The Director and the Jedi, a full-length behind-the-scenes look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi, March 12 at the Paramount Theatre at SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The documentary is one of the bonus features on the home video versions of Last Jedi, which will be released digitally March 13 and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 27.

‘Justice League’ Light Show at SXSW

To promote the March 13 Blu-ray release of Justice League, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment created an interactive light display at SXSW within DC’s comic book pop-up shop and Superhero experience. The activation included an interactive sidewalk and holograms that activated with scenes from the movie and corresponding Superhero logos from all six members of the Justice League.

In addition, the nights of Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, the SXSW X DC Experience featured the performance art of Laserman, as the Italian dancer and his partner performed inside a pair of 12-foot crystal spheres and engaged in a choreographed laser-enhanced performance to the Justice League music of Danny Elfman.

 

Amazon Streaming 2017 SXSW Film Festival Selections

Amazon Studios may have cut back on acquisitions at the recent Sundance Film Festival, but it’s hardly turning a blind eye toward independent film.

The company March 7 announced that more than 30 official selections from the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, are now able to stream on Prime Video.

The films are available through the Prime Video Direct (formerly Amazon Video Direct) Film Festival Stars program that offers filmmakers up to $200,000 and royalties of $0.30 for every hour the film is streamed on Prime Video.

Though criticized by some as lowballing content creators, the Film Festival Stars program is designed to establish a distribution model for titles screened at film festivals that either don’t secure theatrical distribution deals or are looking for distribution options after a theatrical release.

The official selections from the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival include Grand Jury winner for Narrative Feature, Most Beautiful Island; Special Jury Recognition for Best Ensemble, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong; Special Jury Recognition for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling, I Am Another You; SXSW Audience Award for Narrative Feature Competition, The Light of the Moon.

Prime Video Direct returns to the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival (starting March 9) with the FFS program. A representative said Prime Video Direct would be taking meetings from March 10 – March 12 at the InterContinental (701 Congress Ave) to discuss the program. Interested rights holders should email PVD-festival@amazon.com to set up an appointment.

Other SXSW titles available to stream include:

 2 Pigeons

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong

Assholes

Bad Lucky Goat

Barracuda

Bill Frisell, A Portrait

California Dreams

Daphne

Divine Divas

Drib

Easy Living

Fits & Starts

Flesh and Blood

Going to Brazil

I Am Another You

Infinity Baby

Inflame

Inheritance

Let There Be Light

M.F.A.

Maya Dardel

Meatball Machine: Kodoku

Most Beautiful Island

Paa Joe & the Lion

Pornocracy

Ramblin Freak

Satan Said Dance

Signature Move

Spettacolo

Sylvio

The Honor Farm

The Light of the Moon

The Price

The Secret Life of Lance Letscher

Tormentero

Win By Fall