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Sex, drugs and disco balls: 'Studio 54' opens OutShine Film Festival in Fort Lauderdale

In the spring of 1977, Studio 54, the boogie wonderland for the rich and infamous, opened with glitzy sensationalism on Manhattan’s West 54th Street.

Just 33 months later, the nightclub flamed out under a cloud of scandal, drugs and tax evasion. How this disco mecca reigned as a haven for 1970s hedonism and celebrity is the subject of “Studio 54,” director Matt Tyrnauer’s new deep-dive documentary screening Thursday, Oct. 18, at Savor Cinema Fort Lauderdale as the opening film of the LGBT-focused OutShine Film Festival, which runs through Oct. 28.

Featuring interviews with club employees and Studio 54’s reclusive co-founder, Ian Schrager, the film shows how Studio 54 became a favorite of artists and fashionistas. Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor and future president Donald Trump were there. But gay, lesbian and transgender people also freely blended in — when they got past the velvet ropes and blacked-out doors.

“It’s where you come when you want to escape,” a relaxed-looking Michael Jackson says of Studio 54 in one clip. “When you dance here, you’re just free.”

Along with OutShine, “Studio 54” will screen Friday, Oct. 19, through Oct. 25 at O Cinema Wynwood, 90 NW 29th St., in Miami. Here’s what else you should know about the 10th annual OutShine Film Festival.

What else is screening at OutShine?

Plenty. “Studio 54” is one of 50 films (33 feature-length movies and 17 shorts) screening at Savor Cinema (503 SE Sixth St.) and the Classic Gateway Theatre (1820 E. Sunrise Blvd.) in Fort Lauderdale. Other noteworthy films include the East Coast premiere of “Going West” (5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20), a Norwegian drama about an unemployed music teacher taking his estranged transgender father on a road trip; “Tucked” (5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21), in which a veteran drag queen is given a diagnosis of six weeks to live; and “Tenn” (9:30 p.m. Oct. 27), a James Franco-directed historical drama about a young Tennessee Williams struggling to find himself as a gay man in 1930s St. Louis.

How much are tickets?

Passes for “Studio 54” and the opening-night party cost $45-$60, while regular screenings cost $11-$14 per film. The short-film showcases It’s Raining Men (5 p.m. Oct. 20) and Oh Yes It’s Ladies Night (2:45 p.m. Oct. 27) both cost $13. The Oct. 28 closing-night film, “Boy Erased” (starring Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe), costs $15-$45 via OutShineFilm.com.

“Studio 54” will kick off the 10TH annual OutShine Film Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Savor Cinema Fort Lauderdale, 503 SE Sixth St., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $45-$60. Call 877-766-8156 or go to OutShineFilm.com.

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