Every year, the SXSW Film Festival has one unannounced screening, something that isn't advertised but that people start whispering about a day or two after the festival begins. This year, the rumors I heard were about A Scanner Darkly. Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel was completed and ready to watch, although the release date had been pushed back to July. But would it play during the festival, and if so, when? Would we have to track down special passes, or would our badges be sufficient? The Paramount had a block of time on the schedule reserved for "TBD" on Wednesday afternoon, and we suspected that would be the time/place if the movie was going to be screened.
I was having lunch near the theater with Blake of Cinema Strikes Back and he suggested we get in line early. At 2:15, the line for the 4 pm rumored screening was barely a line—maybe a dozen people—but we settled down for a long wait. While we waited, we wondered if we would actually get to see A Scanner Darkly, or if this was all an elaborate ruse to draw a crowd for someone else's movie. At about 3 pm, the line finally started to wrap around the side of the theater, and after the previous movie at the Paramount ended, most of those people started to get in line too. The guest list, which took priority over SXSW badges, was rumored to contain as many as 400 people, but the Paramount is a huge theater and we weren't worried. Once I heard about the guest list size, I knew the movie had to be A Scanner Darkly: the local animation crew was enormous, and it seemed like every artist in town was recruited to help. Naturally, the theater was packed, although Linklater himself was unable to attend.