March 13, 2018: TV- and Film-Theme Experiences a Hit With Influencers at SXSW, Olympic Sponsor Alibaba Endorses Non-Violent Esports for Future Games, SXSW Eliminates ‘Deportation Clause’ Following Immigration Controversy

By Ian Zelaya March 13, 2018, 8:28 AM EDT

1. TV- AND FILM-THEME EXPERIENCES A HIT WITH INFLUENCERS AT SXSW: Immersive fan experiences inspired by Westworld, Ready Player One, and the reboot of Roseanne are the main draw for social media influencers at South by Southwest this year. CNBC: “This year HBO's ”Westworld” won the battle for most dramatic 'activation'— or branded experience. The show pulled out all stops with an immersive park that was far more elaborate, and similar to the show, than anything we've seen at the festival over the past decade. Attendees were given either a white or black Stetson-style hat, and bused 20 minutes outside Austin to a two-acre town of Sweetwater, built around an existing ghost town. Visitors enter from a futuristic portal into a train car—the very one used on the show—and then exit into the dusty town. Although just about 4,000 people will experience the park—and it looks like it cost a couple million dollars to execute, though HBO won't comment—the network says it was worth it. ... It wasn't just premium cable investing to grab consumers attention. Warner Brothers, promoting Steven Spielberg's upcoming film “Ready Player One,” took over a huge two-floor space in downtown Austin. Downstairs were a number of sets from the film, and colorful backdrops for fans to snap and tweet photos. Upstairs, the decor continued, into a maze of rooms, with virtual reality goggles and controllers, to play a series of games straight out of the film. Lines snaked around the block, and fans got geared up for the movie, which premiered at the festival Sunday night. Even broadcaster ABC made a play for viewers. Looking to stoke nostalgia for the return of Roseanne, the network replicated the show's iconic diner and living room. Visitors could pick up free pie and meat sandwiches, pose on the famous couch, or around that familiar kitchen table, and meet the actors."

2. OLYMPIC SPONSOR ALIBABA ENDORSES NON-VIOLENT ESPORTS FOR FUTURE GAMES: Olympic sponsor Alibaba is advocating for eSports to be an official competitive event at future games—as long as the video games aren't violent. Bloomberg: “China’s biggest e-commerce company, which operates an esports business and is a sponsor of the Olympics Games through 2028, is pushing for soccer, car racing and other games to be endorsed as an official competitive sport, said Zhang Dazhong, chief executive officer of AliSports. That move could bar some of the world’s biggest titles from the Olympics, such as League of Legends and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which are both distributed by Alibaba’s competitor Tencent Holdings Ltd. in China. Esports is becoming a big business, drawing spectators to huge arenas where competitors battle each other for prizes and glory. The industry is projected to reach $5 billion in annual revenue by 2020 from ticket sales, advertising, broadcast rights and merchandising, according to researcher Activate. ... Alibaba, which is investing 300 million yuan ($47 million) in esports in the year through March, is hosting the World Electronic Sports Games this week, where the member of the International Olympic Committee will also attend to observe. The e-commerce giant teamed up with the Olympic Council of Asia to add esports to the 2017 Ashgabat Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. Game producers will need to be willing to share their intellectual property for free at the events, and the titles need to have a large fan base, according to Zhang. Because of the fast-changing nature of online games, it would be best to review what titles to include and adjust the rules on an annual basis, instead of every four years, he said."

3. SXSW ELIMINATES 'DEPORTATION CLAUSE' FOLLOWING IMMIGRATION CONTROVERSY: South by Southwest has removed its clause stating that international performers who violate the festival’s contracts could face deportation. Pitchfork: “The changes come after the festival faced widespread scrutiny over the contract provisions last year. The relevant parts of this year’s agreements, obtained by Pitchfork, no longer contain language saying the festival ‘will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities’ if SXSW determines an artist or their representatives ‘have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of [the artist’s] official SXSW showcase.’ … Last year's controversy began when the band Told Slant publicly canceled their SXSW showcase, citing the festival’s immigration language. An open letter demanding SXSW remove the so-called “deportation clause” subsequently drew signatures from artists including Downtown Boys, Sheer Mag, and Priests. In response, SXSW issued statements pointing out their public opposition to President Trump’s travel ban and that they ‘have never reported international showcasing artists to immigration authorities.”


LOS ANGELES:  New Los Angeles restaurant 189 by Dominique Ansel is transforming into a picnic pop-up for lunch service today through Friday. Called Dom’s Burgers, the space offers picnic-theme decor and food.

For information on upcoming events in Los Angeles, visit Masterplanner:

MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA:  The inaugural Palm Beach Open, part of the Palm Beach Masters Series of horse shows, is March 22-25 at Deeridge Jumper Ring in Wellington.

NEW YORK:  The Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture's Skowhegan Awards Dinner will take place April 24 at the Plaza. 

The 10th annual Brooklyn Folk Festival, a folk music festival presented by the Jalopy Theatre & School of Music, will take place April 28-30 at St. Ann’s Church. 

For information on upcoming events in New York, visit Masterplanner:

ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA:  The American Pie Council's annual National Pie Championship will be held April 6-7 at the Rosen Centre Hotel. Amateur and professional piemakers will compete in dozens of categories, from sweet fruits and creams to nuts and chicken pot pies. Entries are prepared on site and judged based on appearance, taste, consistency, crust, and overall product.

SAN FRANCISCO:  The 42nd Union Street Music Festival will take place June 2-3 in Cow Hollow. The event will feature 24 bands playing on four different themed stages: jazz, country, blues, and indie. 

TORONTO:  The Grilled Cheese Challenge, a free grilled cheese festival and competition highlighting local vendors, will take place June 9 at Lakeshore Village. The event will include a beer garden, live music, and a car show. 

WASHINGTON, D.C.:  Chef Victor Albisu will close his South American steakhouse Del Campo March 24. Albisu will replace the venue with two Mexican concepts: Counter service taqueria Taco Bamba will be located in the front bar and dining room, and upscale Mexican concept Poca Madre will be in the back dining room and patio. 

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With contributions from Claire Hoffman in Los Angeles and Beth Kormanik, Michele Laufik, and Ian Zelaya in New York.

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