Broadway's Cort Theatre to be renamed for James Earl Jones

The three-time Tony-winning actor has has a 60-plus year Broadway career.

James Earl Jones

Everything the marquee lights touch will be his. The Cort Theatre, a 110-year-old Broadway venue, will be renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre after the Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning actor. The building was previously named for James Cort, the theatre impresario who opened the venue in December 1912.

“The Shubert Organization is so incredibly honored to put James — an icon in the theatre community, the Black community, and the American community — forever in Broadway’s lights,” said Robert E. Wankel, CEO and board chair of The Shubert Organization, which owns the theatre and made the name change.

Jones's long career has spanned both stage and screen. He made his Broadway debut in 1957 as an understudy in The Egghead and originated his first role a year later, as Edward in Sunrise at Campobello at the Cort. He has appeared in 21 Broadway shows — his most recent being 2015's The Gin Game — and has earned three Tony Awards out of five nominations: two Best Actor prizes for The Great White Hope and Fences, and a Lifetime Achievement Special Award in 2017.

He is also known for his extensive screen work, including voiceovers — he provided the voices of Mufasa in The Lion King and Darth Vader in Star Wars, which remain among his most well-known roles. For all his work, Jones has won a National Medal of the Arts, Kennedy Center Honor, and Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. He is also technically one of few actors to achieve EGOT status, with at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. He has not won a competitive Oscar, but the Academy awarded him a special honorary Academy Award for his many contributions to film.

Jones is the only living artist to have a Broadway theatre named for them. Stephen Sondheim was the most recent artist to have that honor; he passed away in November 2021.

“For me standing in this very building sixty-four years ago at the start of my Broadway career, it would have been inconceivable that my name would be on the building today,” Jones said in a statement. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”

The Cort Theatre has been undergoing renovations since 2020, and the work is expected to wrap in summer 2022. An official dedication ceremony will be held once the venue reopens for use, with a date to be announced.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus