"High School Musical 3" set to keep franchise hot

Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:54pm EDT
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By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co's hotly anticipated "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" arrives in movie theaters around the world next week, with bumper advance ticket sales and plans to keep the $1 billion-plus franchise hot with a fourth film.

Disney is planning a sumptuous roll-out starting on October 22 for the family-friendly movie -- the first to hit the big screen -- after its two made-for-TV forerunners debuted to much less fanfare on the Disney Channel.

"This movie, we are certain, will be very, very successful," said Mark Zoradi, president of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group.

It will debut in 3,800 U.S. and Canadian theaters, and double that number in the rest of the world, he said.

The film, starring teen-ager Vanessa Hudgens and her on- and off-screen sweetheart Zac Efron, had captured nearly two-thirds of advance movie sales in the United States by Thursday, outselling films that debut this weekend, U.S. online movie ticket sellers Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com said.

"The tremendous success of the first two films is clearly driving sales for this third installment," said Ted Hong, Fandango's vice president of marketing.

Zoradi said Disney's marketing campaign goal was "to expand beyond the traditional Disney Channel audience ... to teen girls, younger boys and have it be an overall family viewing experience."

The original 2006 TV movie "High School Musical" drew 255 million viewers worldwide and had Disney scrambling to assemble a merchandising program and to put a sequel into production.   Continued...

<p>Cast members Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron pose at the premiere of the movie "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" at Galen Center in Los Angeles October 16, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>