SXSW 2020 Canceled Due to Coronavirus Concerns

The mayor of Austin has declared a local disaster and canceled SXSW for the first time in the festival's 34-year history.

SXSW 2020 Logo
Photo: SXSW

South by Southwest 2020 has now officially been canceled. Per CNN, Austin Mayor Steve Adler made the announcement today during a press conference on the city’s response to the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

“I’ve gone ahead and declared a local disaster in the city, and associated with that have issued an order that effectively cancels South by Southwest this year,” Adler told reporters. 

SXSW responded to the cancellation via their social media accounts, making it clear that the cancelation was not the festival planners’ choice but that they will be following the mayor’s directives.

SXSW was set to begin on March 13 and run through March 22. The annual tech, music, film, and TV conference has become one of the most important dates on the entertainment calendar. This year’s festival was set to feature movies like The Green Knight and The Lovebirds and TV shows like Motherland: Fort Salem and Solar Opposites. As described in the festival’s statement, this will mark the first time in the event’s 34-year history that SXSW has not been able to go forward. 

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The move to cancel comes after several presenters and organizations dropped out due to concerns of coronavirus. Twitter was the first major company to withdraw from the event followed by Facebook, Amazon, Apple, CNN, and many more organizations. A Change.org petition created to urge the cancelation the event had reached 35,000 signatures as of Friday. 

Early this week, SXSW’s organizers were determined to keep the festival going, even announcing new speakers like Hillary Clinton, Andrew Yang, and Chris Evans. Ultimately, however, the decision to cancel was made for them. 

SXSW 2020 is just the latest of many large events that have been forced to cancel due to exposure concerns from coronavirus. Events like health technology conference HIMMS, Mobile World Congress, and many others have been canceled, rescheduled, or closed to the public. The release of the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die was moved from April to November as well. The next major event in jeopardy could be the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China last year. It has since spread to dozens of countries around the world. The latest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. is 260 with 14 deaths (13 in Washington state, one in California) according to Johns Hopkins University. There are several confirmed cases in Texas but none in Austin at press time.