Long-time film, music, and art festival SXSW has been cancelled. After many vendors and presenters decided to opt out of appearing at the annual show, the City of Austin has decided to pull the plug on the event altogether as a direct result of the pending response to the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the country. SXSW confirmed the news via a statement posted on the show's Twitter account, pointing out it's the first time in over three decades the event's been cancelled.
"The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City's directions," the statement reads. "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."
The festival adds, "We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation. As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that 'there's no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.' However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin's decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites."
It might not be all doom and gloom, however. The festival says on its website it's trying to reschedule the event this year and, at the very least, provide an online experience for 2020 participants. "We 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. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ," the show says on its website.
The event was initially set to take place March 13th through the 22nd at various venues across Austin. The event draws hundreds of thousands of guests per year, with the organizer saying 2018's event saw at least 308,000 attendees attend events across the board. In comparison, attendance in 1987 — the first year the event was held, then using the longer South by Southwest name — topped out at 700.
The coronavirus — or COVID-19 — outbreak has infected at least 250 people in the United States as of the writing, resulting in 15 deaths. Worldwide, more than 95,000 have been infected by the virus, resulting in over 3,2000 deaths.