Studio 54 is a Broadway theatre and a former disco nightclub located on 54th Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The building opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House. It operated as an entertainment venue under various names until 1942, when CBS began using it as a radio and television studio dubbed Studio 52.
In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager opened a nightclub in the building, retaining many former TV and theatrical sets and naming it for its street. Launched at the peak of the disco dancing and music trend, the club became world-famous, noted for its celebrity guest lists, restrictive (and subjective) entry policies (based on one's appearance and style), rampant club drug use, and open sexual activity in the club's infamous balcony and basement VIP rooms. In 1980, the club shut down after its founders were convicted for evading taxes. They sold the club to Mark Fleischman, who reopened it, then sold it in 1984 to new owners, who closed it in 1986.
Since November 1998, the site has served as a venue for productions of the Roundabout Theatre Company and retains the name Studio 54. A separate restaurant and nightclub, Feinstein's/54 Below, operates in the basement of the building.
In 2020, it expanded into a music imprint including a record label, Studio 54 Music, and radio station on Sirius XM, Studio 54 Radio.
When CBS began marketing the building in 1976, various parties in the art and fashion world expressed interest in seeing it converted into a nightclub. Male model Uva Harden tried to get gallery owner Frank Lloyd to finance the club, until Lloyd lost a $9 million lawsuit to the estate of the artist Mark Rothko, in the Rothko Case.
In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager transformed the theater into a nightclub called Studio 54, with Jack Dushey as a financial backer. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. It took only six weeks to transform the theater into a nightclub and cost $400,000 before its grand opening on April 26.
Rubell and Schrager hired Scott Bromley as architect, Ron Doud as interior designer, and Brian Thompson as lighting designer. Jules Fisher and Paul Marantz, two well-known lighting designers, created the dance floor environment and created movable theatrical sets and lights using the copious existing TV lighting circuits and fly systems, which allowed for a dynamic, constantly-changing, environment and with which the crowd could be lit brightly.
Within a month of opening, the New York State Liquor Authority raided Studio 54 for selling liquor without a license and closed it. The owners of the nightclub said the incident was a "misunderstanding". The next night the club reopened, serving fruit juice and soda instead of liquor. Before the raid, the nightclub had been using daily "caterers' permits", which enabled the nightclub to serve alcohol but were intended for weddings or political events. The State had denied the daily permit for the night and raided the nightclub. The nightclub had been using these permits while waiting for its liquor license to be processed.
The scene (1977–1979)
Event planner Robert Isabell had four tons of glitter dumped in a four-inch layer on the floor of Studio 54 for a New Year's Eve party. Owner Ian Schrager said it was like "standing on stardust", and it left glitter that could be found months later in attendees' clothing and homes.