Film to debut in theaters on Oct. 24

The cast of Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” franchise has agreed to enroll in a third outing of the runaway hit that Walt Disney Pictures will bow in theaters Oct. 24.

Set to return for “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” are Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman.

Project had already been in the works as a theatrical release after the second TV movie attracted a record-breaking audience for Disney Channel.

And much of the cast was expected to return for the pic that starts lensing in the spring. But questions remained whether Disney would offer up big enough paydays to bring back its stars, especially Efron, after the TV movies became an instant phenom and put them on the map, drumming up offers for pics at the major studios, as a result.

Efron is currently lensing the comedy “Seventeen” for New Line and is signed to star in a redo of “Footloose” at Paramount.

Kenny Ortega will direct “HSM3″ from a script by Peter Barsocchini. Both helmed and penned the first two TV movies. Bill Borden, Barry Rosenbush and Don Schain will produce.

Pic will revolve around seniors Troy (Efron) and Gabriella (Hudgens) facing the prospect of being separated from one another as they head off in different directions to college. Joined by the rest of the Wildcats, they stage an elaborate spring musical reflecting their experiences, hopes and fears about their future. 

Last summer, 18.2 million viewers tuned into “High School Musical 2,” making it the largest audience for a basic-cable telecast. Its soundtrack was the No. 2 album of 2007 in the U.S. selling 6.5 million units. Disney Channel says first “HSM” has been seen by 250 million viewers worldwide since it bowed in 2006.

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