2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: STUDIO 54

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Matt Tyrnauer revisits the meteoric rise and crushing fall of the legendary NYC nightclub.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

Studio 54 was the epicenter of ’70s hedonism – a monumental magnet for beautiful stars, casual sex, and mounds of cocaine, a den of excess that defined its own rules and enshrined the ostracized, queer, and fabulous. Matt Tyrnauer (VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR) chronicles the rise and fall of this nightclub’s founders: two best friends from Brooklyn, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who conquered New York City only to have it crumble before their eyes.

With rare footage, a parade of colorful patrons and staff, and brutally honest interviews with Schrager himself, STUDIO 54 is a riveting study in contradictions. Inside the palatial theatre-turned-disco, the crowd reveled in an atmosphere of total acceptance, whether drag queen, octogenarian, waiter, or celebrity. Yet outside, a frenzied, excluded mob yearned to be noticed by the doorman and ushered into the sanctum of pulsating love. Schrager and Rubell’s glittering creation sprang from carefree naïveté and unbridled ambition – yet those same instincts managed to destroy it. This bracing story reveals how even the most culturally potent and transformative phenomena can be vulnerable and fleeting.

Some Background:

  • Matt Tyrnauer

    Tyrnauer has a background in journalism, beginning under Graydon Carter at The New York Observer before moving over to Vanity Fair in 1992, where he now is a contributing editor. His directorial debut, VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR, premiered at Toronto and was shortlisted for the Academy Award. His most recent feature docs, CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY and SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD both also debuted at Toronto. This is his first Sundance project.



  • Noreen O’Toole

    O’Toole has a background producing for series, including Sundance narrative alum 11.22.63.

  • Troy Benjamin and Graham High

    Benjamin co-produced Tyrnauer’s SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD and CITIZEN JANE. High associate produced SCOTTY… and worked on the crew of CITIZEN JANE. Both also worked at Herzog and Company. This is their first Sundance credit.

Associate Producer:

  • Alison Schnapp

    Schnapp was also an associate producer for SCOTTY… and worked at Herzog and Company. This marks her first Sundance project.

Executive Producers:


  • Andrea Lewis

    Lewis co-edited and co-produced CITIZEN JANE. This is her first Sundance project.


  • Morgan Hanner

    This is Hanner’s first Sundance project.

  • Jason Hardwick
    Past Sundance docs:


Why You Should Watch:
Tyrnauer expertly captures the highs and lows of Studio 54’s story through judicious use of remarkable archival footage and revealing new interviews, resulting in a definitive profile that’s at once fun and sobering at the same time.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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