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‘The Apollo’: Pharrell, Paul McCartney Talk Legendary Harlem Venue in Doc Trailer

Documentary premieres on HBO on November 6th

Daniel Kreps Oct 17, 2019

Apollo Theater, New York. Photo: Carlos Rene Perez/AP/Shutterstock

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Pharrell Williams, Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson and more discuss one of music’s most important landmarks in the new trailer for The Apollo, the HBO-bound documentary about the legendary Harlem theater.

“When [the Beatles] first came to New York, the Apollo was the first place we wanted to go,” McCartney says in the trailer. “This music just connected.”

Williams adds, “I don’t know where any of us would be without all those performances on that stage. The Apollo is the beginning of all of it.”

The generations-spanning documentary, which premieres November 6th on HBO following its Tribeca Film Festival premiere in April, charts the history of the Apollo — from its reopening in 1934 to present day, when the theater staged a multimedia adaptation of author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. The film also examines the theater’s famed Amateur Night.

“Weaving together archival footage of music, comedy and dance performances with behind-the-scenes verité footage of the team that makes the theater run, the film features interviews with such artists as Angela Bassett, Common, Jamie Foxx, Doug E. Fresh, Savion Glover, Patti LaBelle, Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson, and Pharrell Williams,” the documentary’s synopsis states.

“The film recounts more difficult times in the life of the Apollo such as when the theater went into bankruptcy during the Seventies. But in 1983, the theater was bought by civil rights attorney Percy Sutton, who eventually made an arrangement with the state to create a foundation and establish The Apollo as a New York City landmark. Although the building and its ownership have evolved over the years, the cultural vibrance and symbolic connotations remain consistent and grounded,” it continues.

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“The Apollo is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression,“ director Roger Ross Williams previously said in a statement. “The story of the Apollo is the story of the evolution of black American identity and how it grew to become the defining cultural movement of our time.”

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