APOLLO THEATER OPENS IN HARLEM
The Apollo Theater opened it’s doors today (January 26, 1934).
The theater was built in 1913, by an architect named George Keister.
The Apollo Theater was originally operated as a “white’s only” movie house until it was purchased by Frank Schiffman and Leo Brecher.
According to “The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance,” Schiffman and Brecher were instrumental in opening up entertainment venues for African-Americans, both as entertainers and audience members.
Schiffman and Brecher owned other venues, like The Lafayette Theater, The Lincoln Theater, and The Harlem Opera House.
The pair opened the new theater as the 125th Street Apollo, which became the centerpiece of Harlem’s entertainment world.
The first acts to perform on opening night were Benny Carter and his Orchestra, Ralph Cooper, Mabel Scott, Three Rhythm Kings and Aida Ward.
Over the years, The Apollo Theater has launched the careers of artists like Billie Holiday, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and numerous others, who graced the legendary stage.
The famous “Amateur Night,” which was originally emceed by Ralph Cooper, started at The Lafayette Theater.
Cooper brought the night over to The Apollo Theater in 1935, and provided hopeful’s with a chance to be discovered, in front of the fickle crowd.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, The Apollo Theater hosted legendary R&B artists like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson and countless others, including revues by Motown and James Brown, who recorded his breakthrough album Live At The Apollo there in 1962.
In the 1970s, the audiences began to decline, so the owners converted The Apollo Theater back into a moviehouse, which debuted a number of black films that were being produced at the time.
The Apollo Theater closed it’s doors in 1976 due to financial issues.
Legendary racketeerer/drug dealer Guy Fisher, became the first black man to own and operate The Apollo Theater, when he purchased it in 1977.
In 1983, Inner-City Broadcasting purchased The Apollo Theater and by 1991, the state had taken control of the building.
In 2005, The Apollo Theater went through a $65 million restoration.
It is now run by a nonprofit organization, The Apollo Theater Foundation Inc.
According to reports, The Apollo Theater still draws over 1 million people annually.