Bobby Schiffman, Guiding Force of the Apollo Theater, Dies at 94

“The big stars would say, ‘We love you, Bobby, but we can play the Apollo and sell 1,500 tickets or play Madison Square Garden and sell 18,000,’” Howard Schiffman said.

Mr. Schiffman finally shuttered the theater in 1976. The Apollo reopened under new management in 1978 but closed again the next year. In 1981, the media and technology executive Percy E. Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president, purchased the theater with a group of investors. It was declared a state and city landmark in 1983, and in 1991 it was taken over by the Apollo Theater Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Mr. Schiffman later oversaw the Westchester Premier Theater in Tarrytown, N.Y., before retiring to Florida.

In addition to his son, from his marriage to Joan Landy, which ended in divorce in 1973, Mr. Schiffman is survived by his fourth wife, Betsy (Rothman) Schiffman; his stepsons from that marriage, Barry and Michael Rothman; six grandchildren; and two great-grandsons. His marriages to Renee Levy and Rusty Donner also ended in divorce.

While the Apollo became famous for its stars and spectacle, Mr. Schiffman never forgot its unique role as a locus for Harlem life.

“We were in the business of pleasing the Black community,” he said in an interview for the book “Showtime at the Apollo.” “If white folks came as an ancillary benefit, that was fine. But the basic motto was to bring the people of the community entertainment they wanted at a price they could afford to pay.”

When he overstepped his bounds, the community let him know. “The highest price I ever charged was six dollars,” Mr. Schiffman added. “I tried seven for Redd Foxx once, and they stayed away in droves.”

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