The Shubert Organization, which owns the theater, commissioned an extensive $47 million renovation project on the venue located on West 48th Street in Manhattan’s Theater District in anticipation of the dedication ceremony. The construction took place during the pandemic and the theater now has expanded accessibility, increased public space, additional dressing rooms and rehearsal space. The renovation project also included “refurbishments to the interior and the rehabilitation of the historic landmark’s façade, as well as the creation of a new, modern annex to compliment the historic theater.”
Shubert Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel spoke about the significance of renaming the building after Jones in a statement.
“The dedication of the James Earl Jones Theater honors one of the most beloved Broadway and film actors of all time,” Wankel said. “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’ 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.”
Attendees of the dedication ceremony included New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Courtney B. Vance, Debbie Allen, Lee Daniels, Phylicia Rashad, Kenny Leon, Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and many more.
An acclaimed actor and EGOT winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), James has won three Tony Awards, a Grammy, two Emmys and an honorary Academy Award. He's appeared in 14 Broadway productions at Shubert theaters, including two at the Cort. In total, Jones has performed in 21 Broadway shows and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
On the silver screen, he provided the voice of Darth Vader in the early Star Wars films in the 1970s and appeared in Claudine, A Piece of the Action, Coming to America, Field of Dreams, Coming 2 America and more in his distinguished career. In 2019, he earned an NAACP Image Award for outstanding character voice-over performance for reprising the role of Mufasa in The Lion King.
Here are some moments from the ceremony: