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The Apollo Media Center (composed of several turn of the century stores with a new theater box added to the rear) first opened on April 2, 1941 with a showing of "The Philadelphia Story" starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart.
For many years, the 900-seat theater provided countless hours of entertainment and was a hub of activity on the Jefferson Avenue commercial strip. The theater stopped showing movies when a fire caused extensive damage in 1966. It was subsequently used for community gatherings until it was abandoned in the late 1980s and taken over by the City in a tax foreclosure proceeding.
Soon afterward, community residents started talking about rebuilding the Apollo, not just to provide an important service to residents, but to also help restore Jefferson Avenue to the vibrant commercial strip it once was, to create a "Jefferson Avenue Renaissance." Initially, the intention was to restore the Apollo back into a movie theater. However, it became evident that the movie theater business had changed significantly from the heyday of the Apollo. Neighborhood theaters had become a thing of the past, replaced by large suburban multiplexes. Despite various efforts, organizers were unable to secure private sector support for a movie theater at the site.
Eventually, it was decided that the Apollo should be converted into a telecommunications facility, one that would provide a state-of-the-art facility for the Public, Educational, and Government Access. It was also intended to be used for commercial productions, to help generate revenue that would go back into the building. At the direction of the City, the Architect undertook the task of redesigning the facility to accommodate TV production capabilities. The result is an 18,000-sq. ft. facility that contains two TV studios, four private editing suites, a conference room, a classroom, and other amenities. Much of the older theater was maintained, with the old marquee replaced by the electronic message board. The lobby is decorated with a unique "tile quilt" project displaying the artistic talents of many local residents."
The Architect decided to retain the form of the former theater, even though a substantial portion of the original turn-of-the-century frontage buildings had been demolished. The building was clad in white porcelain enamel panels to express its art nouveau origins. The lobby is recreated as a huge public art project, a glazed tile wall of art by residents of the community, any of whom used the theater in their youth. A community group, 'Fifty Women with a Vision', was helpful in initiating the project. development was inspired by Sandy White, a member of the group.
The Apollo Media Center was opened to the public in 2001.