Director Alan Parker wanted a scene that showed Doris overcoming her fear and becoming an actress. He heard of the audience participation at the local screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and went to check it out. He loved it so much that he not only decided to use it in the film, he had many of the "cast" from the local screenings appear in the film, as the people doing the time-warp on stage when Doris runs up and joins them.
The character of Ralph Garci worships Freddie Prinze. In the course of the film, we find out that "Ralph's Garci's" real name is actually Raul Garcia. When Prinze died, his character on Chico and the Man (1974) was replaced by a character named Raul Garcia.
The school is based on the real-life Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan. It is a public school, and therefore available to any New York City high school student who successfully auditions.
One of the first films to employ digital audio in the soundtrack. Much of the music was recorded in New York on a digital system that digitally encoded two channels onto a video signal, then recorded it to 3/4 inch video tape. The final mix was analog on the standard six channel 70mm Dolby Stereo. The dub began on 3 March 1980.
This was the first film in the history of the Academy Awards to have two songs nominated in the Best Song category. The nominated songs were the title song, written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford and "Out Here On My Own" written Michael Gore and Lesley Gore. The title song won. It has since happened several times.
Debbie Allen commented in interviews that the role of Lydia was originally bigger in the movie, written as a star dance student always competing for roles with Irene Cara's Coco. So the role would not outshine Cara and the other young cast members, the role was then drastically cut down and made into the audition judge that you see in just the first ten minutes of the film. The character of Lydia, of course, was carried over to and made the star of the TV version of Fame (1982).