News reports say early Nielsens show that Friday’s premiere of The Disney Channel’s made for TV High School Musical 2 was the most-watched basic cable television program of all time. With 17.2 million viewers, it was also the most-watched basic cable movie of all time, the highest-rated television program ever for children age 6 to 11 and the second-highest-rated television program of all time (behind only the 2004 Super Bowl) for viewers age 9 to 14. It also was the most-viewed Friday television telecast, cable or broadcast, in the past five years. Now the $7 million musical sequel will be shown in 100 countries. All this shows that TV viewers will respond to good, clean, energetic fun. (As Time magazine reviewed, “It’s a raging bacchanal of hand holding, milk drinking and explicit thespianism!”) The pic’s phenomenal success clearly means that not everything in entertainment has to be edgy. Could Hollywood suddenly be hungry for clean-cut? The pic’s star, tween hearthrob Zac Efron (the 19 year old with pipes known for his blue eyes and bowl haircut), is now taking meetings with Francis Ford Coppola.
The sequel repeated Saturday night and tonight there’s a sing-along. (Fans are supposed to download song lyrics off the Internet.) Just think about it: the little $4.2 million Kenny Ortega directed and choreographed original movie urging kids to be true to their dreams has been seen by more than 160 million people around the world. Most importantly to the Walt Disney Co, it has morphed into a $100-million-plus bonanza for all divisions of the company. It has sold more than 6.5 million DVDs, it was the No. 1-selling CD of 2006, its series of books about the characters sold 4.5 million copies, its stars sold out a 42-city national tour, it even spawned an ice show. TV analysts say the High School Musical franchise also has meant a triple jump in revenue for the Disney Channel. There’s an upcoming promotion with Wal-Mart, and about 300 licensed products will reach stores by the end of the year.