The Shubert Organization unveils the re-christened James Earl Jones Theatre at 138 W. 48th St. September 12 with a formal dedication ceremony celebrating the name change and the completion of the 110-year-old building's $47 million restoration and expansion. The event, open to invited guests and members of the press, includes performances, tours of the theatre, and the unveiling of the new marquee.
The ceremony, which begins at 4 PM, features performances by Tony nominee Norm Lewis and Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell with appearances by Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, The Shubert Organization President Robert E. Wankel, and NYC Mayor Eric Adams. Other attendees are scheduled to include Courtney B. Vance, Debbie Allen, Kenny Leon, Lee Daniels, Phylicia Rashad, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tamara Tunie, and Woodie King Jr.
"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 an earlier statement. "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 move places Jones' name on the theatre where he made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Sunrise at Campobello.
“For me standing in this very building 64 years ago at the start of my Broadway career, it would have been inconceivable that my name would be on the building today,” added Jones. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”
As announced last year, the building has been given an extensive makeover, most notably including a newly constructed wing off the building's western face with a grand staircase, elevator, accessible bathrooms, concession areas, lounge, dressing rooms, and rehearsal space, all designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects. The existing structure has been given a refurbished façade, expanded wing space, modernized rigging, and new seating to enhance comfort and accessibility, though the theatre's capacity remains unchanged.
The Shuberts hope the improvements will allow the theatre to present more modern and technically challenging productions. The original proscenium arch has also been restored, including black-lit art glass set in ornamental plaster lattice. The original structure's restoration is led by Francesca Russo Architect, which has restored several other Shubert houses over the past 25 years.
Built in 1912, the former Cort Theatre on West 48th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues is one of Broadway's most intimate houses. The theatre has been home to such recent productions as Glenda Jackson in King Lear, Indecent, Bright Star, and No Man's Land/Waiting For Godot, with its longest tenant, The Magic Show, running 1974-1978. The theatre was named for John Cort, a Seattle-based theatre manager who owned the building before the Shubert brothers acquired it in 1927. The façade is inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles.