SXSW, one of the biggest music and film festivals in the world, is facing a slew of cancellations from the likes of Netflix, Apple and many more amidst the growing coronavirus outbreak. The massive event, which takes place in Austin, Texas, is scheduled to begin next week. However, many of the biggest companies who were bringing talent and content to the event are pulling out which begs the question, will SXSW be cancelled altogether?
As of this writing, Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, WarnerMedia (which includes HBO and Warner Bros.), Lionsgate, CNN and Amazon have all pulled out of SXSW. Along with them, the many screenings and panels the companies had planned have also gone by the wayside. Apple, for example, was set to premiere Beastie Boys Story, a documentary on the iconic rap group from director Spike Jonze. Netflix's lineup included Uncorked, A Secret Love, L.A. Originals, Mucho Mucho Amor and Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics.
The talent participating in many of these panels and screenings are also cancelling planned appearances at SXSW, which is a big draw for attendees. On the music side of things, Universal Music Group backed out recently, as did Ozzy Osbourne, who was set to attend for the premiere of Biography: The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne. It's expected that further cancellations will mount as the event draws nearer. Earlier this week, Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, suggested that axing SXSW entirely wouldn't make the city any safer.
"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. We've asked this group to evaluate that, and if there's any evidence that our community will be safer by closing down public events, we'll do that."
As the cancellations pile up, pressure to cancel the event may mount. An online petition asking the city to cancel SXSW has gained over 50,000 signatures. But there are no easy answers. For Austin, giving the ax to SXSW would hurt the local economy. Last year's event pumped more than $350 million into the city. Local businesses, contractors such as Uber drivers, venues and many others who were expecting the money from SXSW would take a big hit. That's not something city officials will take lightly.
Another issue is that cancelling the event could result in massive losses for the event organizers. If city officials hand down the order to cancel, it's quite possible that promoters could have a better chance of walking away with less financial damage, as any insurance policy would be more likely to pay out in such a scenario. But Austin city officials have to weigh the public health risk against the financial benefit.
To date, the coronavirus has totaled nearly 100,000 cases worldwide, with more than 3,300 deaths. The COVID-19 virus first emerged in China two months ago and has since spread to more than 60 countries around the globe. SXSW, for now at least, is set to take place from March 13 through 22. This news was previously reported by Deadline.