All hail the Tween superstars

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Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron and Robert Pattinson are now the real power in Tinsel Town

The Hollywood money-men have spoken and truly, we are all now living in the Time of the Tweens.

Perky, wholesome and able to guarantee the kind of brand loyalty the older generation of movie stars could never dare to dream of, the future belongs to shiny teen stars such as Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron and the Jonas Brothers.

And their reign has been confirmed with the announcement of a series of major new remakes that signal a generational change in Hollywood.

Miley Cyrus, face of box-office phenomenon Hannah Montana The Movie, is to star in a remake of the overblown Whitney Houston vehicle The Bodyguard.

And Zac Efron, who became a worldwide star via High School Musical, will headline a new version of the 1970s disco classic Saturday Night Fever.

Efron had been due to star in another remake, that of the 1980s boy-meets-dancefloor classic Footloose, but passed on that to instead reprise the role that made John Travolta a star.

The new version of Footloose will now star another tween favourite who is making the transition to the big screen, TV's Gossip Girl heartthrob Chace Crawford.

Zac Efron's former love interest in the High School Musical movies, Vanessa Hudgens, is also slated to star in two major new movies, an X Factor-style story of a high school Battle of the Bands competition titled Bandslam and Beastly, and yet another take on the classic Beauty and The Beast story.

Other tween favourites, like Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) and Robert Pattinson, the 23-year-old British actor who is the star of the Twilight franchise, are being lined up for major studio productions.

Of course, Hollywood has always been obsessed with youth and beauty and the major studios have never been slow to ring out the old and bring in the new.

But the sheer numbers of new stars in their teens or early 20s and the weight of investment and profile building behind them represents a major shift in the way the studios are doing business.

Where once stars such as Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts and latterly George Clooney were expected to follow a long and difficult upward curve to the A-list, the likes of Zac Efron can arrive almost overnight.

High School Musical 3 was made for just $30m but earned over $150m in US box office sales alone. And that figure was virtually tripled by downstream and associated earnings on everything from bedspreads to lunchboxes.

The first High School Musical was made for a TV special that cost Disney just $11m dollars but ended up being broadcast to 225 million fans worldwide, selling four million soundtrack CDs and spawning two even more lucrative sequels.

Create stars like Efron, Hudgens and Cyrus and you can guarantee the kind of brand loyalty from pre-teen and teen audiences that no other actors or entertainers can come close to matching.

Studios like Disney have hit on the perfect business model for hovering cash out of the pockets of eight-to-16-year-olds and putting pressure on their parents.

And in this harsh economic climate, when studios are reluctant to pay huge fees to older A-listers, the Tween stars represent a virtually guaranteed return.

Ali Jaafar, international editor of showbiz bible Variety, says the studios cannot get enough of the likes of Efron and Cyrus.

"They are seen as the next generation of stars, and producers want them attached to their projects because they know the studios will immediately say 'Yes!'"

Of course, betting a studio's future on teen stars does carry its own risks. Teen stars get older, harder to control and can lose their fanbase virtually overnight.

In just over two years, former teen idol Lindsay Lohan went from the $150m-grossing Herbie Fully Loaded to two arrests, the LA under-age bar scene, a stint in rehab and a broken career.

Similarly when Miley Cyrus was photographed topless last year by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, clutching a sheet to her breasts, she drew enormous flak and was forced to re-state her credentials as a virginal, All-American saint.

Having become child stars, the likes of Efron and Cyrus face a huge challenge in growing older, making the change from safe to sexy while not alienating their fan base or the puritanical US media.

In the remake of The Bodyguard, (working title: Personal Security) Cyrus will star as a spoilt teenage pop star taken under the wing of Aussie heartthrob Hugh Jackman.

In the original, the characters played by Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner became romantically involved.

But while the producers of the remake have not released details yet, it's hard to believe they will write in a steamy storyline putting the virginal Cyrus and Jackman together.

Likewise, the original Saturday Night Fever saw Travolta as a moody, sexually charged blue-collar kid living in a violent, deprived neighbourhood.

It's hard to see Zac Efron delivering the kind of raw, sexually dangerous punch that Travolta landed in that iconic opening scene, as Tony Manero swaggered down 86th Street in Brooklyn.

Source: The Irish Independent

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