As the Uptown Theatre takes steps toward its planned restoration, another historic Rapp and Rapp-designed Chicago movie palace—the Loop’s Oriental Theatre—is getting a new name. The 1926 structure will ditch its longtime title and iconic red and green vertical Randolph Street signage early next year when it officially becomes the James M. Nederlander Theatre.
Nederlander, who passed away in 2016, headed a live performance empire that spans nine Broadway stages and 15 venues nationwide, including Chicago’s Oriental and CIBC (formerly known as the Shubert) theaters. Now run by his son James L. Nederlander, the organization is also the parent company of Broadway in Chicago.
In addition to honoring the late Nederlander’s legacy, the rebranding will ditch the word oriental which can carry connotations of being “patronizing, objectifying, and offensive,” according to the Chicago Tribune. “When you look at legacies in the theater world, this was the right thing to do,” Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago told the newspaper.
Prior to the Oriental’s construction, the site at 24 W. Randolph Street was home to the infamous Iroquois Theatre where more than 600 Chicagoans perished in a disastrous 1903 fire. The current structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features interior ornamentation inspired by architecture found in India.
The Oriental Theatre was renamed the “Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre” after a 1998 restoration and sponsorship deal with the Ford Motor Company. The building’s upper office floors were converted into a 198-room Cambria Hotel in mid-2017.
The James M. Nederlander name and a new exterior marquee will debut on February 12. The official unveiling will coincide with the opening of a touring production of the 2015 Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.”