The not-for-profit Maltz Jupiter Theatre has become one of Florida’s preeminent professional theatres, committed to performance, production, and education through its collaborations with local and national artists. The state’s largest award-winning regional theatre, the Theatre’s performances have drawn rave reviews from media outlets across the world.
The Theatre is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) public charity and serves over 100,000 people annually in the tri-county area. Located at the corner of State Road A1A and Indiantown Road in Jupiter, the Theatre’s budget averages $8 million annually, of which about 40% is donated.
When fully operational, the Theatre boasts a subscription base of approximately 8,000 and serves nearly 600 students per year in after-school, weekend, and summer programs at its Goldner Conservatory. In addition to a supportive Board of Directors, the Theatre has more than 400 volunteers assisting in a variety of functions, including administrative tasks, ushering, bartending, production support, and hospitality.
The Theatre’s standing as largest in the state is determined through average box office income by the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theater association of its kind in the United States. The Theatre is Florida’s only LORT B+ theatre. Theaters are categorized into tiers A through D, with tiers determined by the weekly actual box office receipts averaged over the last three complete fiscal years.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre began in October 2001, when its landmark building was acquired by the not-for-profit Palm Beach Playhouse, Inc., formed by a small group rallying to revive theater in Jupiter. Within weeks, a small staff and devoted base of more than 100 volunteers had formed, dedicated to supporting the Theatre. By 2007, the volunteer team had swelled to 500.
Following a successful capital campaign, the 28,000-square-foot theatre was renovated in February 2003 and re-named the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in recognition of major benefactors Milton and Tamar Maltz. On February 29, 2004, the Theatre opened as a 554-seat, state-of-the-art regional theater. A leap year, the Theatre’s opening date was dubbed a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to support theater.
In August 2005, Andrew Kato joined the Theatre’s staff as Producing Director, becoming the Theatre’s Artistic Director the following year. Two years later, in August 2007, the Theatre built world-class facilities in support of its Goldner Conservatory, designed to serve hundreds of students in after-school, weekend, and summer programs.
In June 2008, the Theatre received a prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fund grant and its first grant from the Roy A. Hunt Foundation to create the Emerging Artists Series (EAS) in Musical Theatre Playwriting. Through the series, the Theatre held readings of the shows Academy, Dani Girl and Wonderland. A year later, the Theatre went on to further develop Academy for the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival, which went on to win Best Musical at South Korea’s 2010 Daegu International Musical Festival. The Theatre produced its much-anticipated world premiere in December 2010.
Also through the EAS series, the Theatre commissioned the world premiere of Fanny Brice: The Real Funny Girl and the original musical Through the Looking Glass.
Through the Emerging Artist Series, the Theatre created its first Youth Artists Chair summer mentorship program in September 2011, an annual tradition in which high school students direct and create every aspect of a show. Through the program, the Theatre has produced Rhinoceros, The Glass Menagerie, The Crucible, Hamlet, The Laramie Project and The Good Times are Killing Me.
In May 2012, the Theatre was presented with the opportunity of a three-to-one matching fundraising challenge to secure a $10 million endowment. The Theatre’s then-managing director Tricia Trimble led the way for the Theatre to meet its first fundraising challenge, paving the way to receive an exceptional gift of $7 million from the Maltz Family Foundation and ensuring that the Theatre continues in perpetuity. The endowment was fully completed and in place two years later.
In 2018, the Theatre launched the ARC New Works Theatre Festival, to showcase and celebrate the creative process of developing new works for theatre. The weeklong festival featured staged readings, playwriting workshops, and other public events supporting up-and-coming writers developing new plays and musicals. As part of the 2019 festival, the Theatre commissioned and workshopped a new play from Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, which premiered on the Maltz Jupiter Theatre stage as the opening of the 2019/20 season.
As the Theatre’s artistic and educational programming has evolved, so too the facilities have received much needed improvements over the years.
In 2011, the Theatre expanded its production efforts to an offsite scene shop and storage facility. Within five years, its staff had outgrown the facility and moved to a new state-of-the-art, 15,000 square foot production shop in West Palm Beach. In this space, designers and crew members now have the capability to build both the Theatre’s sets as well as commissioned projects for other theatres.
In October 2014, the Theatre completed a $2.5 million expansion and renovation to create The Green Room Club Level Lounge and seating area. A gift of the Roe Green Foundation and other generous donors, the renovation expanded the first floor lobby, created an upstairs club level lounge and event space, and added 62 luxurious premium seats to the Theatre, increasing total seating capacity to 617 seats.
In 2017, thanks to a generous gift from Patty and Bob Hendrickson, the Imagine Room—an intimate VIP hospitality space—was renovated and expanded in order to elevate patron experiences during performances and other special events.
Now, after defying national theatre trends and achieving impressive goals in its short history, the Theatre is embarking on an ambitious, multi-million dollar renovation of its facilities, the most dramatic change to the building since 2003. The Believe Capital Campaign was developed as a multi-phased expansion of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre building that will improve production facilities, expand the Conservatory, and add a second performance space. These improvements will allow the Theatre to offer a new variety of performance and educational experiences, including developing pre-Broadway and pre-national tour productions right here in Jupiter, Florida.
The first phase of the expansion, or “Act I,” was completed in the summer of 2019. This phase expanded the Theatre’s parking lot and added essential new curb cuts to improve parking and traffic flow for patrons. The centerpiece of this phase was building out the electrical room and systems to support the expanded building in the coming phases.
In the spring of 2020, the Theatre suspended operation and made the decision to cancel its 2020/21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this “fallow” period, the Board and staff endeavored to “make lemons out of lemonade” and pursue the next phases of Believe construction. The expanded stage, updated production facilities, and new administrative offices were completed in 2022. The Conservatory, the second performance space, and some additional new features of the building will open in the coming years.
ORIGINS OF THE MALTZ JUPITER THEATRE’S HISTORIC BUILDING
Once one of the most renowned cultural centers in South Florida, the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater operated as a local landmark and arts institution from 1979 to 1996.
Founded, built and operated by Burt Reynolds, the $2 million Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre originally broke ground in May 1978 and gained success and fame from its inception. More celebrities performed on its stage than any other arts venue in Palm Beach County at that time, including such stars as Martin Sheen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julie Harris and Judd Nelson.
Sally Field, Tyne Daly and Gail Strickland opened the theater’s first season with “Vanities” in January 1979. Other stars who performed on its stage over the next decade included Carol Burnett, Charles Nelson Reilly Farrah Fawcett, Eartha Kitt, Shelley Berman, Ned Beatty, Vincent Gardenia, Deborah Raffin, Kirstie Alley, Elliott Gould, Robert Hays, Marilu Henner, Alice Ghostley, Ossie Davis and Robert Urich. The country’s top box-office draw at the movies from 1978 to 1982, Reynolds performed in three of the theater’s 116 shows and frequently directed.
The building (eventually renamed the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre) also housed the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training, where more than 100 apprentices took classes from stars such as Liza Minnelli, Sheen, Reilly, DeLuise and Reynolds. 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 continued operating the theater until 1996. Financial problems eventually forced its closure, and Reynolds sold the closed 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 Theater in late 1996. When the theatre struggled, Divosta sold the property to media kingpin Lowell “Bud” Paxson, who donated it to Christ Fellowship Church in 1999.
In 2001, a group of citizens formed the non-profit Palm Beach Playhouse Inc. and purchased the building for $2.67 million – and the rest is history. It underwent a complete renovation and reopened as the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in February 2004.