Parkway of Broken Dreams

Through a combination of archival footage and contemporary interviews, Parkway of Broken Dreams tells the story of the scrappy group of artists, poets, musicians, DJs, and entrepreneurs who built an organic, thriving, and highly influential arts scene along one stretch of road in the cultural wasteland of 1990s Las Vegas, only to see it fade away by the turn of the 21st century.

  • Pj Perez
    Sugarhook, Namaste
  • Pj Perez
    Sugarhook, Namaste
  • Scott MacDonald
  • Emmily Bristol
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 19 minutes 31 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Las Vegas Premiere
    Las Vegas, NV
    United States
    October 13, 2021
    World Premiere
  • Silver State Film Festival
    Las Vegas
    United States
    October 30, 2021
    Audience Award - Best Documentary
  • Valley Film Festival
    North Hollywood
    United States
    November 6, 2021
    California Premiere
    10 Degrees Hotter Award - Documentary Feature
  • Las Vegas International Film & Screenwriting Festival
    Las Vegas, NV
    United States
    November 9, 2021
    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • NETA
    Country: United States
    Rights: Free TV
  • FilmHub
    Country: United States
    Rights: Internet, Video on Demand
Director Biography - Pj Perez

Pj Perez is a journalist, musician and filmmaker whose work has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers and websites across hundreds of articles since the early 2000s, including Rolling Stone, TimeOut, and Zagat Survey. Although he currently lives in Southern California, Perez was a Las Vegas resident for 25 years and was actively involved in that city’s music, art and poetry scenes, both as a performer and as a reporter.

He first dabbled in video journalism in the mid-2000s, producing short-form segments for various websites, and was bitten by the filmmaking bug after winning a query contest in 2009, which led to the development of his original TV pilot, BEING (which was also a Round 2 finalist in the ATX Pitch Competition). Perez co-wrote and co-directed the short film SUGARHOOK as part of the 48 Hour Film Project, created the micro-pilot LAS VEGAS RULES, and edited the AT&T Create Shape-a-Thon short film NAMASTE.

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Director Statement

In the early 1990s, UNLV-adjacent thoroughfare Maryland Parkway was the thriving center of cultural activity in Las Vegas, where college students and the creative class of the city came to study, socialize, dine and shop. Independently owned coffee shops filled with academics and intellectuals. Multiple record stores, including a massive Tower Records, served as premier destinations for local musicologists. Bars and clubs buzzed with live music, flowing taps and warm bodies. At night, people casually walked from retail stores to cafes to bars. And UNLV’s own student-run radio station, KUNV, provided the soundtrack and connective tissue for the whole scene, through its innovative and award-winning “Rock Avenue” programming.

By the dawn of the 2000s, however, that scene almost entirely disappeared. Rock Avenue was cancelled. Record stores went under. Coffeehouses shuttered. The art and music scene, for the most part, moved downtown, and Maryland Parkway today looks very different: rising new UNLV construction projects mixed with a collection of decades-old shopping centers and proliferation of chain restaurants. Those walking the sidewalks at night are less likely to be students than residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, bus riders biding time between routes, or individuals living on the streets.

For many, the scene that rose up along Maryland Parkway in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was not just a high point in Las Vegas' cultural history, but the "big bang" for almost everything that came after. Nightlife pioneers got their start putting on after-hours events in tiny cafes and bars. KUNV DJs became music industry powerhouses. An Emmy-award winning TV writer honed his skills over cheap cups of coffee. Everyone from future Saturday Night Live stars to members of The Killers owe at least part of their creative lives to the opportunities afforded them from the inclusive, come-as-you-are nature of the Maryland Parkway cultural scene.

And it’s the scene where I developed the skills and connections that would lead to my own career successes. It’s at Cafe Rainbow where I first performed original music in front of a live audience. It’s at the two-story kinko’s where I learned desktop publishing and made discount copies of band flyers late into the night. It’s at the Benway Bop record store where I first sold my self-published poetry chapbooks. And it’s the lifetime friendships that have supported me throughout all of my endeavors, from magazine editing and music criticism to comic book publishing and filmmaking.

In 2006–just as UNLV was unveiling its “Midtown UNLV” plan, an effort to revitalize and redevelop the University District–I wrote a sprawling oral history of this period as a cover story for a local paper, the Las Vegas Weekly. Interviewing about a dozen influential participants in the scene–from business owners and artists to DJs and journalists–the article explored the origins, blossoming, and eventual decline of counterculture along Maryland Parkway, and asked whether UNLV's plan to force change could ever reproduce or surpass what came before it, organically. Fourteen years later, the jury is still out.

And when I tell this story to folks who know nothing about Las Vegas, period, outside of the gambling and nightlife for which the world knows the city best, they're fascinated. Unlike the grunge scene in Seattle, the punk scene in New York City, the hard rock scene in L.A., the Manchester rave scene, or the flower-power scene in San Francisco, no one has told the story of the Maryland Parkway scene in Las Vegas, which was somehow like all of the above, combined into one brief, beautiful–and sometimes tragic–flash of culture, community and diversity that could only exist at that time, in that place.

So, now, 25 years after its heyday, I’m making Parkway of Broken Dreams to tell that story through a combination of new interviews with dozens of the people who made it all possible and archival footage that captures the visual expression of the scene–as well as looking at where Maryland Parkway currently stands, and where it may be going.