Studio hopes to replicate 'High School' success

The Mouse House is considering going back to high school.

The studio, which struck a chord with younger audiences when it graduated Disney Channel’s hit franchise “High School Musical” to the bigscreen, is developing “Prom,” a comedy that revolves around a group of teens prepping for the big dance.

Disney is looking to experiment with how it packages the project, exploring the idea of casting complete unknown thesps to star as the nine lead roles, and rein in the budget to boost the profit potential of the pic. The tone is said to be similar to the types of teen comedies helmed by John Hughes or Cameron Crowe.

Joe Nussbaum, who has experience directing young thesps like Amanda Bynes in Universal’s “Sydney White,” and others in the direct-to-DVD pic “American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile” and MGM’s “Sleepover,” will helm the project, based on a script by Katie Wech, whose written for “The Dead Zone” and was an associate producer on “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.”

Ted Griffin and Justin Springer will produce.

“Prom,” which is not expected to be a musical, had initially been put in development while Oren Aviv was still president of production at the studio and Sean Bailey was brought on board as a producer. The studio is still keen on the project, which has the potential to launch a new franchise, now that Bailey has replaced Aviv and inherited the project.

But Disney is considering several creative and financial directions before giving the pic a greenlight.

Early plans had “Prom” being produced for around $5 to $10 million and featuring fresh faces. The studio had been encouraged by “HSM’s” ability to launch new stars like Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu, virtual unknowns at the time. The third installment earned $163 million at the worldwide box office in 2008, and was made for around $15 million. But Disney is keeping its budget and casting options for the nine lead roles open until it reads Wech’s script.

A fourth “High School Musical” is in the works at Disney Channel.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more