Canada House events scratched following SXSW cancellation

The business and event space highlighting Canadian creativity across film, music and tech was set to attract approximately 5,000 visitors each day, according to Telefilm.

Another major entertainment conference and festival has been canceled due to the global COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak, with Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) being the latest to pull the plug.

Organizers revealed Friday (March 6) that the City of Austin directed them to cancel this year’s edition – the first time in 34 years that the event has been shelved.

With the cancellation, Telefilm is also mothballing all activities and events related to Canada House, a business and event space which puts a spotlight on innovation and creativity across film, music and tech. It had been scheduled to run from March 15 to 19.

Telefilm made the announcement Friday evening shortly after SXSW issued the news that this year’s event would not go ahead. Canada House, which features panels, presentations and talks, in addition to live performances from Canadian musicians, launched at SXSW last year, attracting around 2,000 visitors each day. This year, a move to a bigger venue would have seen Canada House attract in the region of 5,000 visitors each day, according to Telefilm. In a statement, the film funder said it will bring Canada House to SXSW in 2021.

In addition to Canada House, Canadian titles such as Steven Kostanski’s PG (Psycho Goreman), Michael Nader’s U.S./Canada project The Toll and showrunner Jay Cheel’s docuseries Cursed Films (First Love Films) will no longer be making their world premieres. As well, Montreal transmedia studio Reflector Entertainment had been set to unveil the first pieces of content from its multi-platform story universe Unknown 9.

“We are devastated to share this news with you,” read a statement issued on Friday by SXSW. “‘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.

“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,’” the statement continued. “However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honour and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.”

Organizers say they are exploring options to reschedule the event and “are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants.” An FAQ will also be posted soon for delegates who had already committed to attend.

“We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love,” the statement concluded. “Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

The news comes as myriad companies confirmed they were pulling out of attending this year’s edition – among them, Netflix, WarnerMedia, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon Studios, and Apple.

The global outbreak of the virus has led to the cancellation of several major entertainment, tech and business gatherings over the course of the past two weeks, with the most recent being MIPTV, originally slated to run from March 30-April 2. Organizers Reed MIDEM announced the cancellation of the annual conference earlier this week.

With files from Barry Walsh

Image: Kim’s Convenience cast members Simu Liu and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee at SXSW last year. Picture courtesy of Telefilm.