James Earl Jones Theatre is unveiled on Broadway
Volume 122, No. 9October, 2022
In an unveiling ceremony in September, the Court Theatre was officially renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre in honor of the iconic multi-award-winning American actor. Following a $47 million restoration and expansion of the building, a formal dedication ceremony took place with special performances, tours of the renovated theatre, and an unveiling of the new marquee.
James Earl Jones’s Broadway career began in 1957, and in 1958 he played his first role at the Cort Theatre in “Sunrise at Campobello.” Over the following 65 years Mr. Jones rose to star in countless stage and screen productions (including 21 Broadway shows), becoming one of a small number of lifetime “EGOT” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winners. Jones’s Tony Awards include Best Actor in a Play for “The Great White Hope” (1969) and “Fences” (1987), as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He has additionally won seven Drama Desk Awards and has been awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor.
Mr. Jones has appeared in 14 Broadway productions at Shubert theatres, including two at the Cort Theatre. Most recently he starred opposite Cicely Tyson in the 2015 Broadway revival of Donald L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game” at the Golden Theatre.
With the help of Francesca Russo Architect, the Shubert Organization performed extensive renovation and construction work on the theatre. A new contemporary annex, designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, expands accessibility, increases public space, adds dressing rooms and rehearsal space, and enhances the beauty of the 110-year-old theatre.
Shubert Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel said, “The dedication of the James Earl Jones Theatre honors one of the most beloved Broadway and film actors of all time. 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, designed in the style of an 18th century French palace by renowned theatre architect Thomas Lamb to house productions of theatre impresario John Cort. The building was sold to the Shubert brothers in 1927.
The theatre has undergone historic refurbishments to the interior and rehabilitation of the NYC historic landmark’s façade, as well as the creation of a new, modern annex to compliment the historic theatre. The new space is fully accessible and features lounges and new restrooms for theatre patrons, as well as a rehearsal spaces and offices for theatre staff. The 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. These renovations have created an enhanced theatre functionality that allows for the presentation of more modern, technically demanding productions with larger casts.