'High School Musical 3' takes L.A. by storm

3,000 people attend premiere at USC basketball arena

The cultural tween phenomenon of "High School Musical" hoofed into Los Angeles on Thursday night with the premiere of "HSM 3," the first theatrical edition of Disney's franchise.

One of Los Angeles' major thoroughfares, Figueroa Street, was closed near USC during rush hour so that 3,000 people could attend the screening, held at the university's Galen Center, home of the Trojan basketball team.

"When was the last time you went to a movie premiere in a basketball gymnasium? Probably never," posited Disney's Oren Aviv while on the 300-foot long red carpet.

Screaming fans lined the surrounding streets for a glimpse of Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and other cast members, though some could be forgiven for momentarily missing Ashley Tisdale, who plays scheming blonde Sharpay Evans. Tisdale was blond at the movie's junket earlier in the week but turned up a brunette for the premiere.

"Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" Hudgens screamed when she noticed Tisdale, whom she didn't recognize at first.

While being billed a "world premiere," the $30 million movie had premiered in London already as well as Madrid and Paris. Fans in Europe apparently got a little handsy at venues that were less tightly controlled than Thursday night's. Still, Disney did make sure that some of the film's stars, especially Efron, was constantly shadowed by a security guard.

For director Kenny Ortega, the franchise's helmer and creative force who hasn't done a feature since 1993's "Hocus Pocus" and "Newsies," working on a theatrical film was "a dream come true."

"Knowing that we had a little more time to shoot it and a little bit bigger of a budget to imagine it, I looked back at my own days of high school and how we aspired to be like the greats," Ortega said. "When I saw 'West Side Story,' I was convinced I was George Chakiris, and all that I wanted to do was put on a pair of black tight jeans and a purple shirt and dance the night away.

"In high school, especially kids in musical theater, they look to Broadway, and look to movies and that's where they get their excitement and inspiration from. So as I imagined the first two movies, and especially the third one, I looked into my backyard and wanted to bring the same fun to this high school."