Producers Kill Broadway’s John Grisham Adaptation ‘A Time to Kill’

Sales-challenged courtroom drama will close Nov. 17 after less than two months on the boards

Broadway courtroom drama “A Time to Kill,” based on the early tome by John Grisham that launched the novelist’s career, will shutter Nov. 17 after just seven weeks on the boards.

Producers were betting the scribe’s legions of lit fans would turn out for the stage version of the 1989 novel that also spawned the 1996 film incarnation that starred Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson. There seemed a promising promotional opportunity, too, in the fact that Grisham’s long-awaited sequel to “Time to Kill,” “Sycamore Row,” was released Oct. 22, just two days after the Broadway production’s opening night.

Whatever reader enthusiasm was generated by “Sycamore,” however, didn’t translate to box office heat at “Time to Kill.” And in adapting a familiar story into an old-fashioned courtroom drama, there was a comfort-food quality to “Time to Kill” that Broadway ticketbuyers more often tend to seek out from razzle-dazzle musicals rather than plays.

With no big-name actors in the cast, the show also faced strong competition this fall from star-driven nonmusicals including the Daniel Craig-Rachel Weisz starrer “Betrayal” and double-title repertory outings led by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (“Waiting for Godot/No Man’s Land”) and Mark Rylance (“Twelfth Night/Richard III”)

Popular on Variety

Weekly grosses at “At Time to Kill,” which began previews Sept. 28, never topped $300,000, a low number even for a show in one of the smaller houses on the Rialto (the Golden at 800 seats). For the week ending Nov. 3, B.O. came in at $215,431 and audiences filled the house to an average of 55% capacity.

Thanksgiving week is usually one of the most profitable for Broadway shows, but holiday visitors tend to flock to tuners rather than plays, and advance sales seemingly weren’t high enough to compel producers to keep “Time to Kill” running through Turkey Day.

Originally produced at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage in 2011, “A Time to Kill” was adapted by Rupert Holmes (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “Curtains”) and helmed by Ethan McSweeny. Cast was led by Sebastian Arcelus in the McConaughey role, with John Douglas Thompson, Tom Skerritt, Patrick Page, Tonya Pinkins and Ashley Williams also among the cast.

Production arrived on Broadway under the auspices of commercial producers including Daryl Roth (“Kinky Boots”) and Eva Price (“Peter and the Starcatcher”). Closing leaves the Golden open for one of the other brewing play projects angling for a theater this season, including a revival of “Of Mice and Mice” that would star James Franco.

More Legit

  • Tina Fey attends the "Mean Girls"

    Tina Fey Announces Movie Adaptation of Broadway's 'Mean Girls' Musical

    It’s good to be mean…the “Mean Girls” musical, that is. Producers of the hit Broadway show announced today that the Tony-nominated production is being adapted for the big screen for Paramount Pictures. The musical is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. “I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, [...]

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

  • A Soldiers Play review

    'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review

    Now, that’s what I call a play! Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” now being revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, packs plenty of dramatic tension into smoldering issues of racial justice and injustice, military honor and dishonor, and the solemn struggle to balance their harrowing demands on characters who are only [...]

  • Bess Wohl

    Listen: The Impossible Plays of Bess Wohl

    The playwright Bess Wohl is always chasing a wild idea — and she’s found that rather than scaring away her collaborators, it just makes them more eager. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I started my career thinking, oh, I’ll just write a play that’s really easy to do,” Wohl said on the latest episode [...]

  • Roundabout Theatre Company: Three New Plays

    Roundabout Theatre's Off-Broadway Season Adds Three Shows From Female Playwrights

    Roundabout Theatre Company, led by artistic director and CEO Todd Haimes, announced Tuesday that three female-written plays will be added to the 2020-2021 Off-Broadway season. Sanaz Toossi’s “English” will make its world premiere in fall of 2020, while Lindsey Ferrentino’s “The Year to Come” and Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” will make their New York debuts [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content