The documentary Spark: A Burning Man Story made the rounds this summer at national cineplexes—except in Las Vegas, where theater exhibitors have a policy of not opening films also immediately available on video on demand or for online streaming.
However, local Burning Man participant Erik Gavilanes was undeterred, knowing his fellow Vegas “burners” would want to see it on the big screen. So after reaching out to the people behind Spark and Tugg.com, which facilitates theatrical screenings of on-demand movies, he scheduled a one-time-only, prime-time showing of the film at AMC Town Square 18, and promoted it to the local Burning Man community— which sold out the 213-seat auditorium last night.
The screening was unlike any other. Even if you’ve done the Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight thing, you’ve still never been to a more colorful or lively movie outing. For one, over half of the attendees were done up in “playa gear,” or clothing and costumes indicative of the burner look (as in fur, EL wire, flashing lights, colorful trenchcoats, fur, goggles, funny hats, discoball-silver pants, mesh stockings and more fur).
And speaking of Rocky Horror, talking over the movie was not only allowed, but encouraged. Some examples:
*Loud utterances of “...in bed!” following certain moments of dialogue.
*”F*ck the lottery!” followed pretty much any mention of the festival’s controversial ticket distribution experiment in 2012.
*Various (and often sarcastic) references to the 10 principles and assorted rules of Burning Man, which included one attendee’s serious post-film exhortation for everyone to clean up their “MOOP,” or trash, in keeping with the leave-no-trace policy of the festival, which was charming.
*As was the woman who 10 minutes into the screening yelled, “Thank you, everyone, this is amazing!!”
One never grew tired of the repeated crowd queries for whiskey, because that was being passed around, as was the only other thing more aromatic than the popcorn. “I haven’t smelled a theater like this in years,” said one attendee from the last row. Amazingly, I never saw any theater staff pop check up on the room.
They weren’t even beckoned by the loud cheers that erupted at several points in the movie, including the first nighttime playa shot, the first completion of an art project chronicled by the filmmakers from start to finish and the first glimpse of burner nudity.
There was also an accompanying raffle, a pre-party and an afterparty. This underscores not only how organized burners are, but that they aren’t the “hippies” the Burning Man community are commonly dismissed as. Because what hippie would ever show this much motivation?