SXSW Music and Film Festival Canceled Amid Coronavirus Concerns

AUSTIN - MARCH 2016: Signer, songwriter, and rapper Anderson Paak performs at a concert during SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas.

The South by Southwest festival, which draws more than 100,000 music, TV, film and political enthusiasts to Austin, Texas each March, has been canceled for the first time ever amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision came Friday, just one week before the festival was set to get underway, after the city of Austin declared a local health emergency.

“Based on the recommendation of our public health officer and director of public health, and after consultation with the city manager, I’ve gone ahead and declared a local disaster in the city, and associated with that, have issued an order that effectively cancels SXSW,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at a news conference.

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More than 3,400 people have died across the globe after becoming infected with coronavirus. Here in the U.S., there have been more than 225 cases reported and 14 deaths, NBC News reported Friday.

SXSW was scheduled to run from March 13 to 22. But as fears rose about the virus and large gatherings, Amazon Studios, Apple, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and Starz canceled their plans to attend. Several other companies had scaled back their involvement, yet SXSW organizers just recently said the festival would go on.

In a statement Friday, festival organizers said they were “devastated” about the cancellation.

“The City of Austin has canceled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions,” the statement said. “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.”

SXSW began as a music festival in 1987. Since then, it has added widely-attended film, TV, interactive and political components.

This year, hundreds of music acts were scheduled to perform. The comedy portion of the festival was to include appearances by Hannibal Buress, Pete Davidson, Judd Apatow, and more. Featured speakers listed on the festival website included Katie Couric, Tamron Hall, Gayle King, Kumail Nanjiani, Frank Oz, and RZA.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, and Women’s rights activist Anita Hill were also slated to attend.