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The James Earl Jones Theatre, formerly called the Cort Theatre, officially opened on December 20, 1912, with Peg o' My Heart starring Laurette Taylor. It was originally named after John Cort, founder of the Northwestern Theatrical Association. He commissioned Thomas W. Lamb to design the theatre which would mirror the Petit Trianon in Versailles.
The Shuberts acquired the theatre in 1927, two years before Cort’s death. It has always been used as a traditional theatre except for the years from 1969 to 1972 when it became a television studio with the broadcast of The Merv Griffin Show.
Renovation works began at the Cort Theatre in 2021, and the venue is reopening in fall 2022 under its new name. It is now named for James Earl Jones, the Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning actor known for voice roles in The Lion King and Star Wars films and stage performances in shows including The Great White Hope and Fences, which both earned him Tony Awards. He also earned a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2017.