First Look at HBO The Apollo Documentary

Angela Bassett attends the screening for “The Apollo” during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at the Apollo Theater on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The Apollo is told with archival footage and interviews including Angela Bassett, Common, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Paul McCartney, Pharell Williams, and Smokey Robinson and threads with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, examining the current state of race relations in America. The theater opened in 1914 as the Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, and was “whites-only,” before becoming the Apollo in 1934 and opening its doors to Black patrons.

Director Roger Ross Williams chronicles the theater’s storied past as a space that “…began as a refuge for marginalized artists emerged as a hallowed hall of Black excellence and empowerment,” an HBO press release notes, adding that Williams “reflects on the struggle of Black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the part the Apollo Theater continues to play in the cultural conversation.”