EXCLUSIVE: We’re getting a lot of wink wink from sources that Steven Spielberg’s Amblin/Village Roadshow title Ready Player One will be the surprise screening SXSW.  Currently, there’s a space on the SXSW calendar for a buzz screening on March 15, 9:30pm at the Zach Theater. We also hear Ready Player One could screen as early as Sunday.

While such rumors have been in the ether for some time, it wasn’t clear whether Spielberg was finished with the VFX-heavy film or not. Again, events could always change, and the filmmakers change their mind, but we’re hearing that Ready Player One is poised to premiere in Austin, Texas which is the stomping ground of the pic’s author/screenwriter Ernest Cline, who is also speaking at the festival next week.

Warner Bros. will have a big footprint for the film at the festival with a two-story, city-block takeover of Brazos Hall this coming weekend. There’s a ton of VR experiences, a nightclub plus more hint, hint, hint that the film will screen there: By, golly, The Ready Player One cast is headed there with Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Philip Zhao and Ben Mendelsohn, as well as screenwriter Zak Penn and of course Cline. Given SXSW’s intersection of film and technology, Ready Player One would be hitting a key male demo for the pic, and an opportunity to generate excellent buzz before the pic’s four-day Easter weekend opening on March 29.

We heard buzz of other titles, i.e. Pacific Rim Uprising, Rampage and Deadpool 2, but everything keeps coming back to Ready Player One. 

Last year, the surprise screening was Sony/Skydance’s alien thriller Life which closed SXSW.