James Earl Jones, whose acting career spans seven decades, can now permanently see his name in lights on Broadway. The Shubert Organization, America's oldest professional theater company and the largest theatre owner on Broadway officially renamed the former Cort Theatre to the James Earl Jones Theatre in his honor on Monday.
On the stage, Jones has more than 27 credited roles, and he received Tony Awards for his work in Fences (1987) and The Great White Hope (1969). On the big screen, some of Jones' most iconic roles were in the Star Wars franchise, The Lion King, and The Hunt For Red October. Jones' first role at the Cort Theatre was in 1958 in the play Sunrise at Campobello.
The name James Earl Jones appears on the newly restored Cort Theatre on Broadway in New York on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. The theater will be renamed after James Earl Jones on Monday, becoming the second theater on the Great White Way named after a Black artist. The move comes after a wide Broadway coalition of theater owners, producers, union leaders, creators and casting directors hammered out a series of reforms and commitments for the theater industry to ensure equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. (AP Photo/Mark Kennedy)
In 2020, during the height of racial unrest across the U.S. following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the Shubert Organization decided to rename the Cort Theatre after an iconic BIPOC theater legend. Robert E. Wankel, CEO and chairman of the Shubert Organization, called Jones "one of the most beloved" actors to ever appear in film and on stage.
"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," Wankel said in a statement.
As part of the building's renaming, it also underwent a $47 million facelift and expansion. The new development includes more public spaces, a new rehearsal area, and additional dressing rooms.