James Earl Jones Theatre Gets Official Broadway Opening: Renaming & Dedication Ceremony Announced

Broadway’s Cort Theatre will officially become the James Earl Jones Theatre in an official renaming and dedication ceremony on Monday, Sept. 12, the Shubert Organization announced today.

The ceremony follows a $47 million restoration and expansion of the 110-year-old building on West 48th Street in Manhattan’s Theater District. The dedication ceremony will be open to invited guests and members of the press, and will include special performances, tours of the venue and the unveiling of a new marquee.

Shubert, which owns the theater, commissioned extensive renovations and construction work on the venue over the course of the Covid pandemic years and under the guidance of Francesca Russo Architect. A new contemporary annex, designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, expands accessibility, increases public space, adds dressing rooms and rehearsal space.

The venue’s name change to honor the venerable actor was previously announced, and followed a pledge by Shubert and other Broadway theater owners that arose out of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. 

“The dedication of the James Earl Jones Theatre honors one of the most beloved Broadway and film actors of all time,” said Shubert Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel in a statement today. “It’s fitting that the renaming of this beautifully restored building also be a moment in which to recognize the tremendous contribution of BIPOC people to Broadway. Mr. Jones’s name quickly rose to the top of the Shubert Organization’s list due to his illustrious career performing in Shubert houses, his status in the Black community, and his worldwide reputation as one of the most celebrated performers to ever grace the Broadway stage.”

The Cort Theatre opened in 1912 and was designed in the style of an Eighteenth-Century French palace by renowned theatre architect Thomas Lamb. The venue was built to house productions of impresario John Cort and was sold to the Shubert brothers in 1927.

The $47 million restoration project includes refurbishments to the interior and the rehabilitation of the historic landmark’s façade, as well as the creation of a new, modern annex to compliment the historic theater. The new space, designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, is fully accessible and features lounges and new restrooms for theatre patrons, as well as a rehearsal spaces and offices for theatre staff.

The venue’s dressing room tower has also been relocated to the annex, allowing for the expansion of the stage-left wing and an upgrade of the rigging system. Those renovations, Shubert says, have created an enhanced venue functionality that allows for the presentation of more modern, technically demanding productions with larger casts.

Jones has appeared in 14 Broadway productions at Shubert theaters, including two at the Cort Theatre – 1958’s Sunrise at Campobello and 2015’s The Gin Game co-starring Cicely Tyson. In all, Jones has performed in 21 Broadway shows, winning Tony Awards for The Great White Hope (1969) and Fences (1987), as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

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