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I went to SXSW and saw Netflix and Amazon competing with splashy sci-fi, while Paramount+ pitched its whole line-up

MoviePass MovieCrash picture presented on screen at theater
I was in town for the premiere of "MoviePass, MovieCrash."Nathan McAlone
  • I went to Austin for the opening weekend of the annual music, film, TV, and tech festival South by Southwest.

  • Netflix, Amazon, Paramount+, and Disney competed for attention with premieres and eye-catching installations.

  • I got my teeth "pulled" at an Amazon installation and got a scorpion-filled lollipop in return.

I flew to Austin on Friday for the premiere of Business Insider's documentary on the rise and fall (and rise again) of MoviePass, the movie-ticket subscription service that became a cultural phenomenon in 2017 before descending into bankruptcy and securities fraud charges for some of its executives.

It will air on HBO and stream on Max later this year (check out the reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and Slash Film).

While there, I got to witness South by Southwest's opening weekend, which was dominated by the streaming heavyweights Netflix, Amazon, and Paramount+, with a cameo from Disney.

Netflix and Amazon kicked off the festival by promoting their upcoming sci-fi series. Netflix held a premiere for "3 Body Problem," and Amazon built an interactive postapocalyptic world to promote "Fallout."

Date projected onto steel grid for Netflix's '3 Body Problem'
Netflix's 3D projection for "3 Body Problem" stopped people in their tracks.Nathan McAlone

Netflix competed with Amazon for who could make the biggest sci-fi splash

On my way to Netflix's Friday evening premiere of the first episode of "3 Body Problem" (streaming March 21) — created by former "Game of Thrones" showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with Alexander Woo — I passed a menacing 3D projection promoting it that was stopping passersby in their tracks. When I arrived at the Paramount Theatre, the site of the screening, rival Amazon's premiere of "Road House" was running long.

Despite a well-publicized beef with Amazon over the release, director Doug Liman showed up to the "Road House" premiere. The crowd was buzzing and in high spirits as they exited.

Glowing sign of Paramount Theatre and crowd outside Netflix premiere
Netflix's premiere was delayed, but the venue was stunning.Nathan McAlone

Later, as the "3 Body Problem" premiere began, I heard "Game of Thrones" alum John Bradley (of Samwell Tarly fame) mutter an anxious "Oh God." I also saw Weiss hustle to the back of the house in the opening minutes of the episode. Moments later, the show's volume cranked up.

Bradley shouldn't have been so nervous, as he showed a nice range in this new role, and his performance was a highlight of the episode for me — though, as my colleague Palmer Haasch rightly points out in her review of the series, the 1960s storyline is the most compelling part, and Zine Tseng's performance is a standout (the show has a 75% critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes).

The next evening, I spotted Bradley and some of his costars hobnobbing at the Four Seasons with basketball star Blake Griffin, who has been gaining some traction in Hollywood with his company Mortal Media (Apple TV+'s "Hello Tomorrow!," Hulu's "White Men Can't Jump" reboot).

Dentist barber pulling teeth of man seated during Amazon interactive exhibition
I got my teeth "pulled" by Amazon.Nathan McAlone

Amazon took a different tack from Netflix when promoting its "Fallout" show, an adaption of the blockbuster video game series that will start streaming on April 11. In a real-life recreation of the show's postapocalyptic world, you could barter with actors and lasso two-headed cows. I had my teeth "pulled" by a barber-dentist and got a scorpion-filled lollipop in return. The crowd was having a ball, and it was deemed a must-see by the festival-goers I chatted with.

Paramount+ wants you to know it has a lot of shows and movies

The other big marketing blitz was from Paramount, which promoted Paramount+'s whole slate, from "Halo" to "Lawmen: Bass Reeves" to the new musical version of "Mean Girls."

The strategy appeared intended to introduce Paramount+ to festival-goers, underlining the gulf it needs to close with streaming leaders like Netflix, Disney, and Amazon.

People in cowboy hats pose in front of Lawmen: Bass Reeves
Paramount+ exhibited a bunch of shows, including "Lawmen: Bass Reeves."Nathan McAlone

The streamer built a three-level installation, which included different bars for every show. I snagged a spray-on SpongeBob tattoo, which I was informed was very popular and a bit of a basic choice. Oh well!

On a smaller scale, Disney's 20th Century Studios set up a few eye-catching confessional booths staffed by spooky priests and nuns on the street for its upcoming horror movie "The First Omen" (releasing April 5).

Confession booth staffed with nun on street
Are you ready for your confession?Nathan McAlone

Everyone was waiting for 'Civil War'

Throughout the weekend, a common lament from those attending the TV and film events was that they weren't staying in Austin long enough to catch the March 14 world premiere of Alex Garland's "Civil War," A24's upcoming action flick about the United States devolving into — you guessed it — civil war.

Despite Austin's generally blue nature, signs of our real-life political discord popped up in some areas. In one bathroom, I spotted "Free Palestine" graffiti that had been crossed out. In another, at the Austin Convention Center, a "Dump Trump" sticker had been smeared with what appeared to be human feces. I thought about taking a picture as proof, but it was just too vile, so you'll have to trust me on that one.

Read the original article on Business Insider