You may think High School Musical 2 is unmitigated dreck, but enough kids (or their adults on their behalf) bought the film's CD over the weekend to push the soundtrack to the top of the pop charts, sayeth AOL News. The made-for-cable film's premiere last Friday scored 17.24 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, making it the highest-watched basic cable telecast ever.

Meanwhile, as Disney, understandably, seeks to continue riding the remarkable wave of success it's found with the hit movie series, MSNBC reports trouble may be brewing in the talks for High School Musical 3 (working title, according to IMDb: High School Musical 3: Gradu-Dancin' -- groan). The third installment of the series -- aimed at the big screen, not cable -- may have hit a speed bump, as reports surfaced Wednesday that the series' stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens are holding out for more money. Efron, who has already moved on to bigger (and presumably higher-paying) big-screen roles with Hairspray and the upcoming Footloose, is sizzling-hot property these days, and his on-screen charisma is a huge draw for the tween set at which the film is targeted, so it wouldn't really be surprising if the kid held out for more cash. Disney was quick to respond to the rumors, issuing a statement on Wednesday: "There is no contractual obligation for any of the cast members to return. That said, we are in active negotiations with all of the principle cast members and are feeling optimistic." Hmmm ... could that be a veiled threat to Efron that they don't think they need him to succeed on the big screen?

Given that Disney apparently intends to focus the film on the senior year of the East High gang (smart of them to make them all juniors in the first film, wasn't it?), it might be a little tough to sell any storyline that doesn't involve East High's resident heartthrob/basketball captain/singer-performer Troy featured prominently in the mix. And heaven help Disney with their tween demographic if they should try to sub in a cheaper actor in Efron's place (as they did with the lead character in the fourth Halloweentown film) -- these girls buy Zac Efron throw pillows for their beds and adorn their lockers with his likeness; you may think they're nuts for being crazy about all things High School Musical, but I can't imagine the tween set flocking to the theaters to see a third installment made with a substitute lead.

I suppose if things really go south in the negotiations with Efron, scribe Peter Barsocchini, who's back on board after scripting the first two installments, might have to scramble with some kind of cheesy storyline that involves Troy's basketball-coach dad getting an offer to coach at a college somewhere, and abandoning his beloved champion Wildcats just as his son is entering his senior year as the team's captain -- thereby blowing Troy's big shot at a college basketball scholarship. But given the underlying importance the previous two scripts have given that whole bit -- "Troy, son, if you don't win a basketball scholarship, I just don't know how your mother and I will ever be able to afford to get that new hot tub and Humvee we've been holding out for until you're out of the house ... " -- it would be a little off the story arc to not have Troy and the Wildcats' final basketball season be pivotal to the third (and presumably final, unless they follow that one up with High School Musical: The College Years -- eek!) film.

Here's my prediction: Disney will find a way to keep Efron (they'd be stupid not to), and the storyline will somehow contrive to involve both the championship basketball season and Troy's now unleashed desire to sing and dance on stage. These two will be put in conflict (again) with Troy's dad lecturing him along the lines of, "Look, son, the singing and dancing routine was cute and all that junior year and even over the summer, but now you've gotta crack down and win the championship your senior year, or all will be lost." (Troy already alluded to this in HSM2, when, talking to Gabriela about the future, he confessed his worry that if the team's senior basketball season wasn't all it needed to be, all his past efforts would be in vain.)

Troy will (once again) get distracted by Gabriela and singing, which will (once again) cause a rift with his teammates. But, not to worry -- those Wildcats will unite and pull through it together, and by the end of the film, Troy will have college scholarship offers in both basketball and drama, and brainy Gabriela will have offers in both science and drama, and all will end well in a rousing musical finale. There, how'd I do?

Oh, and by the bye (as if pop-chart record sales aren't depressing enough for all you musicians out there slaving at crappy jobs to keep your bands afloat), Miley Cyrus' Disney-produced double-CD set "Hannah Montana 2 (Soundtrack)/Meet Miley Cyrus" rose to the second slot on the pop charts, presumably boosted by a new Hannah Montana episode airing right after High School Musical 2. Can a Hannah Montana movie (for the big screen, perhaps?) be far behind?