What it looked like Wednesday: The Apollo Theatre, 1941

By Steve Cichon

With much fanfare, the Apollo — featuring cornice carved ceilings, an art nouveau lobby, a rich red rug, and soft, velvet-covered seats opened to the public in April, 1941.

Buffalo News archives

The Basil family operated it like all its theaters, as a neighborhood moviehouse, with special attention to what kids might want to spend their Saturday afternoons watching.

Through most of the theater’s heyday, its Jefferson Avenue address put it at the center of the commercial hub of Buffalo’s black community. Since the mid-’90s, the theater has served as a central location upon which to bring hope to the surrounding community.

The Apollo closed as a theater in the early ’70s and then operated as a church before being seized by the city in the ’80s. By 1995, it had been boarded up and mostly abandoned.

Masten District Councilmember Byron Brown helped lead discussions inside City Hall to make the theater’s renovation part of a plan to bring new life to Jefferson Avenue.

In 1998, plans were unveiled for $3 million worth of city funded renovations to turn the landmark into a telecommunications hub for the city. Aside from city television facilities, the building also became home to a small business resource center.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.