James Earl Jones honored with restored Broadway theater
Jhe Organization Shubert, Inc. officially opened and revealed the new James Earl Jones Theater (138 West 48th Street), formerly the Cort Theatre, in honor of the iconic, award-winning American actor. The groundbreaking ceremony follows a $47 million restoration and expansion of the building.
The official opening ceremony welcomed VIP guests and included special performances by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Norm Lewis. The program also included remarks from Shubert Organization President Robert Wankel and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, as well as a first reveal of the new marquee.
With the help of Francesca Russo Architect, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shubert carried out extensive renovations and construction work on the theater. A contemporary new annex, designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, expands accessibility, increases public space, adds changing rooms and rehearsal space, and enhances the beauty of the 110-year-old theatre.
In the summer of 2020, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the Shubert Organization embarked on a mission to rename the Cort Theater after a BIPOC theater legend at the end of construction.
“The grand opening of the James Earl Jones Theater honors one of the most beloved Broadway and film actors of all time,” said Robert E. Wankel, president and CEO of Shubert. “It is fitting that the renaming of this beautifully restored building is also a moment to recognize the enormous contribution of the folks at BIPOC to Broadway. Mr. Jones’ name quickly rose to the top of the Shubert Organization’s list due to his illustrious career in Shubert homes, his status in the black community and his worldwide reputation as one of the artists the most famous to ever grace the Broadway stage.
The Cort Theater opened in 1912, designed in the style of an 18th-century French palace by famed theater architect Thomas Lamb to house productions by theater impresario John Cort. The building was sold to the Shubert brothers in 1927.
The theater has undergone historic interior renovations and rehabilitation of the New York City Landmark facade, as well as the creation of a new modern annex to complement the historic theatre. Designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, the new space is fully accessible and includes lounges and new restrooms for theater patrons, as well as rehearsal spaces and offices for theater staff.
The changing room tower was also moved to the annex, allowing for the extension of the courtyard wing and an upgrade to the rigging system. These renovations have created improved theater functionality that allows for the presentation of more modern and technically demanding productions with larger casts.
Jones’ Broadway career began in 1957, and in 1958 he played his first role at the Cort Theater in “Sunrise at Campobello.” Over the next six and a half decades, Mr. Jones became the star of countless stage and film productions (including 21 Broadway shows), becoming one of the few lifetime “EGOTs” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony ) winners.
Jones’ 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 also won seven Drama Desk Awards and has received the National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors.
Jones appeared in fourteen 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 Theater.
Kudos to the legend James Earl Jones!
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