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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”)

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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.

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