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SXSW 2021: How to Buy Passes and Reserve Screenings for the Online Film Festival

This year, the film and music festivals and conferences are running entirely online, March 16 - 20.

SXSW’s Online XR platform


A year ago, SXSW was the first major American film event to be called off amid a growingly severe pandemic. Now, SXSW’s annual set of parallel conferences and events are back, in a completely virtual format that runs March 16 – 20.

Getting access to the film screenings, conference sessions, music showcases, exhibitions, meetups, and other virtual versions of the annual festival’s mainstays is straightforward: SXSW is offering a single, all-inclusive pass for everything. It currently costs $325 and is available here; student and groups can apply for significantly discounted passes. Passes will be on sale throughout the festival, though the price will increase to $399 as more are sold.

Once you have a pass, you can start reserving virtual seats for screenings with capacity limits beginning this Tuesday at 11 a.m. Central time. The full schedule is now available.

Interested in the film festival? Here’s what you need to know:

It includes 75 features, 84 shorts and music videos, 11 episodic selections, 20 Virtual Cinema projects, 14 title design entries, and 30 special events. Here’s IndieWire’s breakdown of the complete lineup. Three music documentaries make up the Headliners section: “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil,” from director Michael D. Ratner; “Alone Together,” profiling Charli XCX’s journey of making an album during 40 days of quarantine; and Mary Wharton’s “Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free.”

Many films do not have capacity limits. Those with caps are designed as such, either 2,000 or 5,000 seats.

On March 16, the festival will launch seven films at a time in two-hour blocks from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central time. Most films launch during the first three days of the event. Once a film launches, it will remain available on demand until it hits its audience cap or SXSW ends on March 20. However, three films are available only within specific windows: the Demi Lovato and Tom Petty movies as well as “Under the Volcano.”

Most short films, special events, and Virtual Cinema selections are available globally. More than half of features are geo-blocked to the U.S. That breakdown is subject to change, here’s the latest list of what’s available where.

Attendees can access the online platform through a web browser and through the SXSW Online 2021 Android and iOS apps, as well as apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, and Android TV. The best way to find and download those is by searching for “SXSW Online” on those devices’ app stores.

Additionally, passes grant access to the SXSW Online XR world, available on VR headsets or PCs, that include recreations of Congress Avenue and the Red River Cultural District, live panels, meetups, special events, 360° videos from the Virtual Cinema program, and 2D video feeds of programming.

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