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NEW YORK — A few thousand ticket buyers and no tickets to sell.

That’s the bizarre dilemma in which the producers of “The Producers” found themselves Wednesday when reports circulated that Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick would once again fill the con-artist fedoras of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom on Broadway. If all goes as planned and contract negotiations are successful, the show’s original stars will make their grand return in January for 90 performances.

Tickets for “The Producers” are currenly on sale only for performances through November. But that didn’t stop hundreds of potential patrons from jamming the sidewalk Wednesday outside the St. James Theater, home of the Mel Brooks tuner.

The premature publicity creates a lousy environment for current sales to “The Producers,” now starring Lewis J. Stadlen and Don Stephenson. It is expected that patrons will take a wait-and-see approach before shucking out their $99.

If the Lane/Broderick engagement materializes, it will carry “The Producers” through the B.O.-challenged months of January-March. Lane and Broderick left the production in March 2002.

Last year, the producers of “The Producers” saw ticket sales continue to drop significantly in the wake of the two stars’ departure, and they were forced to launch an expensive TV campaign to bolster sales during winter 2003. Weekly receipts fell to around $925,000, nearly $125,000 under gross potential. Those numbers have not improved with the onset of summer, a time when most long-running musicals receive a B.O. bump, but they are good enough to put the production about $300,000 above its weekly break-even costs.

No longer one of Broadway’s hottest tickets, “The Producers” consistently ranks No. 4 on the weekly box office chart, under “The Lion King,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Hairspray,” despite playing at a larger venue than the latter two. Capacity for weekday perfs often hovers around 60%.

By the time the two stars return, of course, “The Producers” will be sold out again. Come April 2004, however, the big question makes an unwanted comeback: What actor wants to replace either Lane or Broderick in his signature role? In the wake of the Lane/Broderick brouhaha, the current Bialystock, Lewis J. Stadlen, canceled his matinee and evening perf on Wednesday.

Tickets for the Lane/Broderick perfs could go on sale as early as next week.