The city of Austin along with county officials canceled its South by Southwest March events this year in the wake of concerns about the novel coronavirus. The annual film, music, and tech festival had been scheduled for March 13-22 this year, and it normally attracts about 400,000 people over the course of 10 days. 

Leading up to the event, numerous companies, organizations, and entertainers who initially agreed to participate in the festival started to drop like flies. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey who was scheduled to speak at a conference opted out, as did keynote speaker Tim Ferriss. Likewise, Facebook, Netflix, Vevo, Apple, WarnerMedia, Ozzy Osbourne, the Beastie Boys, Trent Reznor, and many more decided not to attend. On March 5, an online petition gathered over 55,000 signatures calling for SXSW 2020 to be canceled due to health concerns. 

SXSW organizers were devastated at the news of the cancellation, stating, “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 … We are committed to doing our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.” Options they are exploring include rescheduling the event and organizing a virtual SXSW online experience for the 2020 participants.

The shutdown impacts a multitude of people including the filmmakers, performers, musicians, and entrepreneurs featured in their lineup in addition to hundreds of theaters, production companies, hotels, bars, Uber drivers, food trucks, and other vendors. Indeed, last year, SXSW pumped over $355 million into the local economy. 

SXSW co-founder Nick Barbaro revealed the organization didn’t have cancellation insurance as it pertains to a disease outbreak or for the city declaring a state of disaster, making things worse.

Unfortunately, SXSW is not the only festival changing its plans. The Geena Davis-co-founded Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas has been postponed until August. And the Emerald City Comic Con postponed until summer after about 10,000 of the 75,000 fans who’d pre-purchased badges returned them; organizers offered a refund to those who were worried about a coronavirus outbreak in Seattle. As for now, The Tribeca Film Festival plans to remain open in April, Cannes is hanging onto its May dates, and Comic-Con is still on for July, but their badge-refund date has a deadline in May.

Industry events like Comcast’s FreeWheel’s New York Upfronts presentation, Fox Entertainment’s program-development presentations, and Disney’s London press launch for Disney+ have all been canceled. And event closures across the globe go on and on—media conferences and festivals in Greece, Switzerland, France, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, and Spain are being postponed or halted.

Approximately 50-percent of cinemas in Italy have been closed, especially those located in Milan’s Lombardy region. In France, about 38 movie theaters are shut down, and thousands of China’s cinemas have been shuttered. 

Film production is also getting hit by coronavirus fears. Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 7 was set to shoot in Italy, but when all public gatherings were forbidden by the government, the producers postponed the shoot. Likewise, CBS’ The Amazing Race Season 33 postponed its shoot due to COVID-19 concerns.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s world premiere of the musical Cinderella was set for August in London, but it now has been given a new opening night in late October. Lloyd Webber stated, “The show will go on sale next week as planned, but in the current global circumstances, the creative team and I feel that this later opening date is wise.”

UPDATED: As of March 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list 647 cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths in the United States. However, the CDC says that illnesses that began around February 29 may not yet be reported. The global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 100,000 according to the World Health Organization, and over 4,000 people have died worldwide. 

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