Lee Daniels is expanding his empire by taking on a documentary about Harlem’s storied Apollo Theater.
That’s right: Having explored the drama around the music scene with his hit TV drama Empire, Daniels is returning to film with a documentary that will examine the Apollo Theater’s contribution to American music and pop culture.
The Daniels-directed feature film — currently titled The Apollo Theater Film Project – will make the most of the filmmakers’ personal ties to the legendary theater.
“I used to go to the Apollo Theater as a kid and never in a million years would I have imagined I would be back to be doing this,” Daniels said. “It is very special for me.”
The feature-length documentary also incorporate elements contributed by fans themselves. In a video posted to the project’s website, Daniels appeals to music fans and Apollo Theater audiences to share their photos, video footage, and souveniers.
“We are asking members of the community who have been to the Apollo, who may have parents or grandparents or other family members or friends who have done so, to help us find any material: audience footage, photographs, or other memories that we can use in our documentary film,” said Daniels and Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of the Apollo Theater in a joint statement. “We have established a website (www.apollotheaterdocumentary.com) for anyone who wants to submit. We will, of course, respect everybody’s ownership of their property.”
Established during the height of the Harlem Renaissance in1934, the Apollo Theater, situated on Harlem’s famed 125th Street, played host to legendary musical acts including Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin. Listed on the National Hispanic Register of Historic Places and the site of the variety show, Live At the Apollo, the theater is still in operation with tickets for musical and comedy shows scheduled through the 2016 season.
Produced by Nigel Sinclair (End of Watch) and Jeanne Elfant Festa (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth), The Apollo Theater Film Project will be distributed by StudioCanal in Europe and Australia. StudioCanal, Impact Partners and White House Pictures will handle U.S. distribution.