LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Disney Channel is grooming "Wizards of Waverly Place" as its next blockbuster tween franchise in the mold of "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana."
The cable channel has picked up a third season of the hit comedy series starring Selena Gomez and has unveiled an original telefilm, "Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie," to premiere in August.
"Wizards," which co-stars David Henrie, Jake T. Austin, Jennifer Stone, Maria Canals-Barrera and David DeLuise and centers on the three Russo siblings who have wizard powers, ranked in April as the No. 2 scripted series across all cable and broadcast television channels among tweens (viewers 9-14 years old).
Set to premiere in August, the "Wizards" movie follows the Russo kids as they embark on a vacation at the Caribbean resort where their parents met.
Since the cable channel discovered Gomez during an open casting call in Dallas five years ago, it placed her in three pilots before getting her on the air with "Wizards."
"We knew we wanted her as a star in the Disney Channel universe," said Gary Marsh, president of entertainment for Disney Channels Worldwide.
Now the show is getting exposure in Disney Channel's ultimate showcase, the original movie franchise that launched
"This is a great example of how we can groom our stars across different genres on different platforms," Marsh said.
It's shaping up to be a summer of Selena Gomez on Disney; on June 26 the channel will premiere the original movie "Princess Protection Program," in which Gomez stars alongside Demi Lovato.
As for "Hannah Montana," which recently jumped to the big screen as a box-office-topping feature, talks are under way for a fourth season of the series.
Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters