How to market the sort of movie no one wants to see anymore, with a star who's box-office poison? Call it a major event and see who shows up. That's Walt Disney's plan for Evita, set to open Dec. 25. Filmgoers have forsaken musicals, and co-star Madonna has been in one bomb after another. So in full-page ads, Disney has begun trumpeting advance sales for the L.A. and New York premieres.

Disney routinely uses the ploy for animated features. But advance sales are an untried tactic for live-action films. And Evita, which bounced around Hollywood for years before finding a producer in Andy Vajna and his Cinergi Productions, is an especially risky project.

Industry insiders say the film hits all the right notes, and publicists have put the pregnant Madonna on eight magazine covers. But will the hype give Evita enough kick when it expands to more than 2,000 theaters on Jan. 10? Don't cry yet.

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