First aired on the Disney Channel in January, “High School Musical” scored the network's highest ratings ever for an original movie. But that was just the beginning.
"The indicator was when we went to iTunes and we saw that the album had gone to number one on iTunes and on amazon dot com -- and this was an album that launched at number 83 on the billboard chart,” said Rich Ross, president of Disney Channel Worldwide. “So we thought, ‘Something is going on.’"
Less than six months after its debut on cable, "High School Musical" is the number one selling DVD. The soundtrack has gone double platinum -- selling more than 2 million units. The paperback is a New York Times best-seller. Even the sheet music for "High School Musical" is flying off store shelves.
"I think ‘High School Musical’ has really caught on not just with the ‘tween audience but with their parents as well because it's a universal theme,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. “It's the theme of acceptance -- the theme of valuing other people's differences. And I think it resonates with people of all ages."
Convinced that "High School Musical" will also resonate with people around the world, the Disney Channel is now launching local language versions of the movie in a hundred foreign markets -- including a Bollywood version for India
"Whether you're in China or Argentina or Sweden, going to school and dealing with peer pressure and wanting to follow your dreams,” said Ross. “Is there anything more universal than that? I'm not quite sure."
Over time, Disney stands to reap tens of millions of dollars from the extensions and spinoffs from high school musical. And the company has only begun to scratch the surface of potential opportunities.
"We've already written the script for the sequel, high school musical two,” said Ross. “All the leads are signed up."
Disney is also developing a stage version of "High School Musical" for real high schools that want to put on a real musical. So far 15,000 schools have expressed interest.