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‘Merchant of Venice’ covers its $3.45 million cost

Broadway play starring Pacino enters the black

Topliner Al Pacino has helped propel the Broadway revival of “The Merchant of Venice” into the black, with the play making back its $3.45 million capitalization costs in 10 weeks, according to producers.

Recoupment isn’t much of a surprise since “Merchant,” one of the hits of the season, is a rare nontuner that regularly pulls in more than $1 million in weekly sales. Play has topped the million mark in seven of its 10 frames on the boards.

Future earnings will rep a profit for producers (minus the show’s weekly running costs). Production goes on hiatus Sunday, its original closing date, due to Pacino’s previous film commitment, then starts up again for a three-week run beginning Feb. 1.

The star-driven play “God of Carnage” went on a similar hiatus. Producers of the Tony winner opted to shut down for a six-week summer break in late July 2009, and the entire original cast, including James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden, returned to the boards in September.

Also starring Lily Rabe, the Daniel Sullivan-helmed revival of “Merchant” originated last summer in a Shakespeare in the Park production from the Public Theater. Strong ticket demand and positive reviews helped push the play toward a commercial run that began Oct. 19 at the Broadhurst Theater.

Produced by the Public, Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, “Merchant” has so far grossed about $12 million in its time on the boards.