Youth Culture Window
It’s official. Gen Y and Gen Z finally have their very own Grease (except this one is clean). Millions of screaming pre-teen and teenage girls (along with their obliging boyfriends) crammed into movie theaters this weekend and made Disney’s High School Musical 3: Senior Year the box office blockbuster.
Meet the Cast
High School Musical 3 (HSM3) follows America’s most famous high school students, the beloved Wildcats from East High. As members of the cast sang and danced their way through the woes and wows of adolescence, viewers were able to catch up with their favorite jocks, brainiacs, and thespians – and take a peek at what the future held in store for them, as well.
The two hour musical brought back the same cast that made the first two movies a hit with young viewers. Troy (Zac Efron), Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), Chad (Corbin Bleu), and Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) led the cast that led the box office this weekend. I’ll leave the movie review to TheSource4YM.com's Todd Pearage, as he was also brave enough to navigate the swarms of screaming teenage girls to give us his take on HSM3.
Disney’s Money Maker
HSM3 was the first in the series to be released as a full length feature film in theaters. Disney, the brains behind the operation, took a gamble that they could draw out the millions of viewers who tuned in to the first two flicks for free on Disney’s cable channel. Their gamble paid off. According to weekend box office numbers, HSM3 raked in $42 million in America, and another $40 million worldwide!
Maybe it wasn’t that big of a gamble after all. When High School Musical aired on The Disney Channel on January 20, 2006, 7.7 million viewers watched that Friday night, with another 6.1 million joining in on Saturday night. Since then, over 160 million people have watched the musical worldwide. The movie generated sales of all kinds of merchandise, including millions of DVD’s and CD soundtracks. Economic analysts have estimated that HSM netted Disney $1 billion (that’s right, billion!) in profit over the last two fiscal years.
The Disney Channel launched High School Musical 2 on August 17, 2007 and more than 17 million people watched the premiere on Friday night, making it the most-watched cable telecast of all-time. Additionally, HSM2 remains the number one original movie on basic cable…of all time!
Secret to Success
HSM3 has all the elements necessary to attract young viewers: an incredibly cute, talented, and diverse cast, fairly cool music and choreography, and the shared angst that comes along with adolescence. But, HSM3 definitely caters to its loyal crowd that has aged along with the stars.
For instance, when Sharpay makes her first appearance, the camera gives a close up of her butt as she struts down the hallway at school. Troy sneaks up to Gabriella’s room for an impromptu dinner of pizza and chocolate covered strawberries. And, of course, there is just the right amount of kissing throughout.
That being said, the movie stays consistent with its G-rating, and will make it the easy pick by parents in contrast with other movies in theaters this coming weekend (Sex Drive and Zack and Miri Make a Porno).
So, the question that’s already on everybody’s mind is, of course, will there be a High School Musical 4? It depends on who you ask, really, after all this is their “senior year.” Rich Ross, a spokesman for Disney says, “yes.” Commenting on who will make the cut for the fourth musical, he confesses, “Are we going to have all the cast back? Probably not. Will we have some of them? I hope so.” My guess is that unless Disney falls out of love with money, we – and they – can bank on there being yet another flick in the future.
The Source for Youth Ministry has always advocated youth leaders having a strong, working knowledge of current youth culture. The High School Musical trilogy is a hit with too many teens for us to ignore it and its message. While you don’t have to go to theaters and suffer through the soul-shattering shrieks of enthralled female viewers, you probably should know who the characters are, along with basic plots lines, so you can carry on conversations with the kids who’ve seen it.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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