Film Details
Director Roger Ross Williams
Editor Jean Tsien
Writers Roger Ross Williams, Cassidy Hartmann
Producers Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann
Executive Producers Dan Cogan, Geralyn Dreyfous, Nicholas Ferrall, Jonelle Procope, Jayson Jackson
The Apollo Theater Documentary Project

The film will tell the story of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. One of the most famous theaters in the world and a driving force in shaping America’s music and cultural landscape, the Apollo’s impact on the local Harlem community and the legendary musicians who performed at the historic venue is immeasurable. Its significance as a symbol of all that is great in Harlem, New York, and American culture has transcended its origin as a place of culture and entertainment. The Apollo today is recognized as an influential center for culture and performing arts with programming across music, comedy, dance, theater and opera. The Apollo continues to build on its legacy by nurturing emerging voices and presenting ground-breaking artists across genres, both nationally and internationally.

Born out of the Harlem Renaissance, the theater became the most prized venue on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” during the time of racial segregation in the United States. On the entertainment circuit, becoming the Harlem community’s answer to Carnegie Hall, it showcased a stunning list of renowned artists, including Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Gladys Knight, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Billie Holiday. It was a launch pad for many musical greats, including Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, and the Jackson Five. Today, the Apollo hosts more than 100 performances on its stages annually, including artistic offerings from around the globe, robust education and community programs, and shows by some of the most celebrated contemporary artists in the world, such as Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Metallica and Sam Smith.

Amateur Night at the Apollo has been running virtually every Wednesday since it premiered in 1934, and to this day remains a centerpiece of the theater’s performance schedule. The theater also continues to serve as a gathering place and focus for African Americans and all New Yorkers at times of cultural and social crisis (the Civil Rights Movement), times of community joy (the election of Barack Obama, the visit of Nelson Mandela), and times of mourning the nation’s greats (including James Brown and Michael Jackson).

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