Studio 54 Shows Us What Made a Place Hot

What makes a place hot?” This is how Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary paves the way to explore the history of the most popular discotheque and cultural entertainment venue of the seventies: Studio 54.

Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber, and A&E IndieFilms present a spectacularly  humane behind the scenes of the glorious nightclub on West 54th Street. The rise and fall of the legendary locale is captured through original footage and interviews with the protagonists of the New York night scene.

People who passed the threshold of the Studio entered a different world, one where they could not only leave their troubles outside, but where they would immerse themselves in a haven of freedom of expression. During the epoch of the sexual revolution, at Studio 54 there were no taboos for free love — neither for heterosexuals nor homosexuals. Celebrities and non-famous people would mingle with ease and become a family who would share the magic of the setting. Hedonism, glamour and inclusion distinguished the 33 months of activity of Studio 54 — that was operative from 1977 to 1980.

Studio 54 was the brainchild of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, two college friends from Brooklyn, who created a heaven of escapism in the heart of the theater district, with the help of their entourage such as their legendary promoter Carmen D’Alessio. The entire team would transform the mise-en-scène of the former Gallo Opera House in a variety of oneiric situations, whether it was the Barnum & Bailey Circus, a Florentine Palazzo, a sit-down dinner for a hundred people or the stage for a performance by Liza Minnelli.

Schrager, who tells the whole unvarnished story for the first time, retraces how the Studio’s social experiment forged the disco-era phenomenon. Director Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood) captures the story about a friendship with great sensitivity, to describe how Rubell and Schrager stuck together through an incredible series of highs and lows and created a visceral business that touched all the senses for every guest, indiscriminately.

Studio 54 was an instant success in terms of popularity and revenues, but the drug-and-sex-fueled dream soon imploded in financial scandal and the club’s demise. The adult amusement park crumbled as intensely as it had combusted to the climax of its glory. But still today it remains the epitome of a lost paradise, that has marked not only the history of New York City, but of an entire era worldwide.