AUSTIN, Texas—As South by Southwest approached, tech and cultural leaders from more than a hundred countries were preparing to flock to the festival this weekend to network, build buzz and down a few drinks.

Walt Disney Co. rented out a sausages-and-beer restaurant to create an immersive experience promoting its X-Men spinoff movie, “The New Mutants.” DTSQ, a South Korean rock band, was ready to fly halfway around the world to play for 40 minutes on a rooftop bar. Austin food truck owner Kati Luedecke was preparing to order…

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