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South by Southwest announces online film festival with Amazon

April 2, 2020
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South by Southwest may have been called off this year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but in some form, the film festival must go on.

Organizers of South by Southwest, the film, music, and technology festival that takes place every year in Austin, Texas, on Thursday announced it's bringing some movies that were set to premiere at the 2020 event to stream on Amazon as part of a 10-day "online film festival."

As the novel coronavirus spread in the United States, South by Southwest was among the first major events to be called off; the decision came after Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a local disaster. It was a major blow to Austin's economy, not to mention to all of the filmmakers who'd been making preparations to debut movies at the festival, which would have kicked off on March 13.

Now, some of these movies can reach audiences online as part of "Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection." Those who were taking part in the festival this year will be invited to opt-in to the online version, the announcement said Thursday. The specific selection of movies hasn't been unveiled yet — The Associated Press notes it's probably safe to say Netflix won't be opting in — but filmmakers who participate will receive a screening fee.

"We're inspired by the adaptability and resilience of the film community as it searches for creative solutions in this unprecedented crisis," Janet Pierson, Director of Film at SXSW, said.

There's no specific date for the online festival, which will be free to watch in the U.S. and will require an Amazon account but not a Prime Video subscription, though organizers are "targeting" late April. Brendan Morrow