LOWDOWN ON THE UPFRONT: Disney Plans 'High School Musical 4'

4/09/2008 12:02 AM Eastern

New York -- The curtain has yet to go up on Disney Channel's big screen production of High School Musical 3and the network has already set it sights on the fourth iteration of the blockbuster franchise. 

Demi LovatoDisney Channels Worldwide entertainment president Gary Marsh, speaking here Tuesday at Disney Media's upfront presentation, also announced several new original movies for the tween-targeted network, several of them featuring the network’s "Next Big Thing," 15-year-old actress/songwriter Demi Lovato. Disney Channel doesn't except commercials, but rather multiplatform sponsorship packages.

The High School Musical movie franchise is expected to return to Disney Channel sometime in 2009 or 2010, after HS3 debuts in theaters this October, according to Marsh.

He said some of the stars from HS3 likely would not return to reprise their roles in the fourth installment, but that the telefilm will feature several new characters that will appear in the upcoming theatrical.

"The franchise may be bigger than the stars itself, so if one two or none of the stars come back the franchise is still compelling," he said.

The High School Musical franchise has been a ratings juggernaut for Disney ChannHSM2el. Last August’s airing of High School Musical 2 stands as the most-watched show ever on cable, drawing 18.6 million viewers  on a live, plus-7-day basis. ABC will even air a reality spinoff of the franchise this summer dubbed High School Musical: Summer Session.

As for Disney’s upcoming schedule, the network will debut its next musical-oriented film, Camp Rock on several platforms, beginning June 17. The movie, featuring The Jonas Brothers and Lovato -- who currently stars in Disney’s sitcom short As The Bell Rings -- will premiere on Disney On Demand June 17 before debuting on Disney Channel June 20, said network officials. The movie will then air over the next two nights: first on broadcast brethren ABC and then on ABC Family, said Marsh.

Lovato will also star alongside teen actress Selena Gomez (the net's original series Wizards Of Waverly Place) in a new Disney Channel original movie Princess Protection Program, as well as a pilot series, Marsh said.

The network will import several of its series stars for two other original telefilms: Emily Osmet, Jason Earles, Moises Arias (Hannah Montana) and Phill Lewis (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) will star in Dadnapped, while Jason Dolley (Cory In The House) and Mitchel Musso (Hannah Montana) will appear in Hatching Pete.

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