Remembering the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre

Actor Burt Reynolds passed away on September 6, 2018 at 82 years old. He was well known for his roles in films such as “Deliverance” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” Reynolds was also a Florida native who founded one of the most famous cultural centers in South Florida, the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre.

The theater, located in Jupiter, Florida, originally broke ground in May 1978 and later opened in 1979. After its opening, the theater swiftly gained popularity. More celebrities performed on its stage than any other arts venue in Palm Beach County. Some of the celebrities who performed at the theater included Eartha Kitt, Carol Burnett, Martin Sheen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julie Harris and Judd Nelson. Reynolds also acted in three of the theater’s 116 shows and frequently directed.

The building, which was later renamed the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre, also housed the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training, where over 100 students took classes with celebrity instructors such as Liza Minnelli, Martin Sheen, and Reynolds himself. In its first decade of operation, the theater won 18 Carbonell Awards from the South Florida Entertainment Writers’ Association, and Reynolds also earned the Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award in 1982 for establishing the Institute.

Reynolds ran the theater until 1989, when he leased the 440-seat playhouse to executive producer Richard Atkins, who operated the theater until 1996. Financial problems forced the theater to close, and Reynolds sold the theater for $2 million to local residential real estate developer Otto “Buzz” Divosta.

Divosta leased the property to Akron, Ohio-based Carousel Dinner Theatre, which reopened it as the Carousel Dinner Theatre in late 1996. When Carousel Dinner Theatre financially failed, Divosta sold the property to media kingpin Lowell “Bud” Paxson, who donated it to Christ Fellowship Church in 1999. In 2001, a group of residents created the non-profit Palm Beach Playhouse Inc. and purchased the building for $2.67 million. The theater was renovated in 2003 and reopened as the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in February 2004.

-Ursa Gil

 

Sources

“Maltz Jupiter Theatre.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltz_Jupiter_Theatre.

Maltz Jupiter Theatre. (2018, September 08). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltz_Jupiter_Theatre

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