'Evita' ticket hot line helps the hype along Premiere: National public-relations machine won't cry for you later if you miss out on seats for New Year's Day opening.

December 06, 1996|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

"Evita" the movie doesn't open in the Baltimore area until Jan. 1. Can you stand the wait?

Well, the marketing mavens who are cranking out all things "Evita" are hoping you can't. They've already got the "Evita" soundtrack in music stores and "Evita"-inspired fashions on the racks. Wednesday, Madonna, the movie's star, came out of maternal seclusion at the Billboard awards show.

And now, weeks before the movie opens at the GC Towson Commons Theatre, you can even get your hot little hands on tickets to the film, thanks to the "Evita" toll-free phone number.

Newspaper advertisements across the country are touting the number -- 1-888-EVITA97. The tickets -- $7.50 (or $4.75 for matinees) plus a $2 surcharge -- will be mailed to those phoning in orders.

"The point of the toll-free number was to create an 'event' out of the movie," says Terry Curtin, a spokeswoman for the Disney Company, parent company of "Evita" distributor Hollywood Pictures.

She said the number was not meant to ensure big box office for "Evita," a film version of the award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

"It is not so much to boost sales but to give die-hard fans the chance to have tickets without standing in lines. We wanted to create an exclusive environment for people," she says.

The film's Christmas Day opening certainly will be exclusive. If you're really hankering to be among the first to see it, you'll have to go to New York or Los Angeles.

"We are opening it in those two cities so it will be eligible for the Academy Awards," Curtin says. "It will be playing in one theater in L.A. and one theater in New York until Jan. 10."

On New Year's Day, the movie will debut in Baltimore and 20 other cities, Curtin says. However, it will play in just one theater in each area.

Curtin says more than 21,000 tickets have been sold in New York and Los Angeles since September. No sales figures were yet available for other markets, which just began advertising the "Evita" hot line on Sunday.

This isn't the first time Disney has used the advance sales device. In fact, it has sold tickets to some of its animated films in Los Angeles and New York in the same way since 1991, Curtin says.

People in those markets are used to booking movie tickets in advance, says Mike Yocco, a movie analyst with Paul Kagan Associates, a market research firm in Carmel, Calif.

Curtin says Disney almost certainly will offer a ticket hot line again. But though such hot lines could help sales for what's seen as "big" movies, Yocco doesn't see it becoming standard practice. "I don't think it's going to be a long-term trend," he says.

And for those who may want to see "Evita" but just don't want to bother with ordering in advance? No problem.

Assuming it lives up to its hype, the movie will begin a wide run at many theaters on Jan. 10.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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