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Broadway had better hope the movie-tuner trend doesn’t fizzle out anytime soon.

“Chicago” the movie goosed “Chicago” the tuner. But who thought granddaddy “The Phantom of the Opera” could benefit from a movie ad blitz?

Warner Bros.’ promotion of the film has really boosted the legiter’s 2005 winter sales. The $2.5 million tally for January/February 2005 compares to 2004’s $1.3 million.

Before the film’s release, Cameron Mackintosh and Alan Wasser didn’t exactly pooh-pooh the film’s expected impact on the stage show. But as they both pointed out, “Phantom” needs much less introduction than “Chicago.”

Apparently, “reintroduction” is the more apt word. Since winter sales are targeted to tristate buyers, the increase there looks to be from moviegoers ready to see the real thing again.

Now in its 17th year, “Phantom” had its second highest grossing session ever in the week leading to New Year’s Day: $976,818.

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The best may be yet to come. The “Phantom” movie doesn’t go wide until Jan. 21, with WB rolling it out a la “Chicago.”

All of which is very good news for the legit investors of “The Producers” and “Rent.” Those movie versions arrive Christmas 2005.

Legit at any price

Premium tix helped push Broadway to its best week to date ($22.07 million, Dec. 27-Jan. 2). It was the first New Year’s Eve session where the majority of shows offered the pricier seats. (Nonprofits are the notable holdouts.) Most productions make a “flexible” number of such tix available. Exceptions are “Wicked,” which holds 300 (at $250 each) aside each week at the 1,773-seat Gershwin, and “Avenue Q,” which makes a hefty 376 (at $200 each) available at the 805-seat Golden.

“Beauty and the Beast” came late to the premium game, and didn’t start the new tix program until mid-November. Six weeks later, the longrunning tuner clocked its best week to date: $1.04 million.

Although VIP tix were offered by “Miss Saigon” and “Ragtime,” Broadway Inner Circle institutionalized the phenom in 2001 with the infamous $450 “Producers” ducat. To date, the show is one of the few not to make premium tix available at the box office.

Imitation may be flattering, but has the premium-tix flood hurt BIC biz? “Volume is up but the landscape has changed,” says CEO Joe Farrell. BIC has an exclusive for Jujamcyn Theaters, whose houses do not offer premium tix at the box office. (Shubert and Nederlander theaters do.)

No fiddling around

It may be the most audacious Broadway replacement since David Merrick put Pearl Bailey in “Hello, Dolly!”

David Leveaux has to laugh, but doesn’t exactly disagree with the comparison. “No tinkering with the limbs,” says the “Fiddler” helmer. “It needs to be a heart transplant.”

The major operation took place Jan. 4 at the Minskoff when Harvey Fierstein took over for Alfred Molina. The critics arrive later this month, but the reviews of Fierstein’s first-night Tevye are available in chat rooms everywhere.

The Harvey decision was something of a group effort, according to Leveaux, but it came as a real surprise to the star.

Thinking back to their first conversation, “I think he was both exhilarated and really alarmed,” Leveaux recalls. “I don’t think there are many actors who think they should be Tevye any more than they should be Lear.”

In the end, it was Fierstein’s “Hairspray” director who closed the deal. As the star tells it, “Jack O’Brien told me if I didn’t do it, years from now I’d be telling the story how I turned down ‘Fiddler’ and people would go, ‘Right. Sure.’ ”

Those fans wanting a more comedic, not to mention Jewish, “Fiddler” should get it with Fierstein, not to mention his new Golde, Andrea Martin. “A great clown has access to big feelings,” says Leveaux. “‘Fiddler is this perpetual negotiation between clowning and walking the line of naturalistic drama. It is never in one place. It keeps shifting.”

Regarding the ethnic issue, “It was never written for a (Brooklyn) accent,” says Leveaux. (Book writer) Joe Fields is definite about that.”

Next up, Leveaux helms what’s being called Jessica Lange‘s “The Glass Menagerie.” Although Ethan Hawke found “Hurlyburly” a more intriguing assignment, Dallas Roberts should make his own impression as Tennessee Williams’ Tom.

“You feel he’s sexually unrooted,” says Leveaux. “Even though he’s straight, as an actor Dallas can be quite sexually ambiguous.”

Quite a ‘Manuscript’

As the New Year kicks in, it’s nice to report some young creatives are making it the old-fashioned way.

After graduating from Brown U. in 2001, Paul Grellong got an agent, Paradigm’s Chris Till, who sent the scribe’s play “Manuscript” to Daryl Roth, who workshopped it at Cape Cod Theater. Bob Balaban then came aboard as director, and Roth now looks to produce at her DR2 this spring. In between, Grellong’s self-described “comedy whodunnit,” about three college freshman in possession of a legendary author’s lost novel, attracted the attention of some film people. Producers Sidney Kimmel (“Neverwas”) and Rachel Horovitz (“About Schmidt”) commissioned him to adapt Jennifer Finney Boylan‘s novel “Getting In.” And director Sam Weisman (“George of the Jungle”) commissioned an adaptation of Michael Hogan‘s novel “Man Out of Time.”

Referring to the domino effect of “Manuscript,” the 26-year-old Grellong opines, “People have read it and responded to it.”