First were the "High School Musical" movies, but Utah this summer will add a reality TV show to the "HSM" portfolio in David Archuleta's hometown of Murray.
The series will be a cross between "High School Musical" and "American Idol" and will air on ABC after being shot at Murray High School, the site of some of the filming for the first "High School Musical" movie.
Executive producer Bill Borden said casting calls in Florida and Los Angeles have recruited contestants who will be brought into Utah, where they will spend six weeks living together and undergoing a rigorous singing and dancing contest. The winner will get a recording contract and sing during the end credits of the third "High School Musical" movie, currently being shot at Salt Lake City's East High School.
The series will have 34 production days, mostly in June, and begin airing in August. The show's name will be determined by Disney.
Derby Productions Inc. on Friday was awarded a tax-rebate incentive of up to $279,801 from the Governor's Office of Economic Development Board to help lure the production to Utah. The company is expecting to spend nearly $1.9 million in the state for the TV show's production.
"You can see our tradition with 'High School Musical' continues to grow," said Jerry Oldroyd, chairman of the board's advisory committee.
"It will bring a lot of publicity, as well, for Utah on a national level," board member Nikos Linardakis said, "and we will get a lot of advertising through it."
Borden told the board that Disney "asked us to create a reality show that's basically in that genre of 'American Idol,' where we are looking for new talent."
After Friday's board meeting, Borden said producers "went around and auditioned kids who would like to become performers, so they auditioned in song and dance. There's an elimination process. They started with thousands, and they're coming down, like 'American Idol' and they're bringing them all to Utah, to Murray."
The participants will be together for about six weeks, he said. "They're going to live and work together, learn how to sing, learn how to dance."
TV show participants also will be extras in the third movie, he said. That film is finishing its second week of production, with six more weeks of shooting scheduled. It will premiere Oct. 24.
The original "High School Musical" has spawned the two sequel films and the TV reality show, as well as a live stage touring show, an ice show and licensing agreements with school and community groups. Borden said "eventually a Broadway piece" is also possible, and fourth and fifth installments in the movie series are "more than probabilities. We're working out the contractual issues right now. We're at that stage."
Is there any end in sight for the "High School Musical" phenomenon?
"I hope not," Borden said. "With 'High School Musical,' we have to morph it, and we have to evolve it and grow it. You can't keep making it over and over again. That's impossible. So we're very conscientious about keeping its value and growing it and evolving it and adapting it at all times."
Will Utah be the movie location for those follow-up films? "I want to make them here," Borden said with a smile.
Also on Friday, the state board approved a rebate incentive of up to $500,000 for The Movie Co. Inc. for the theatrical film "Big Eyes," to star Kate Hudson and Thomas Haden Church.Borden is one of the producers for the film, which is expected to spend about $6 million in Utah.