With this past weekend’s $23.7 million opening of “17 Again,” Zac Efron has taken his first successful step toward carving out a career beyond the “High School Musical” franchise that shot him to popularity.
Now he faces the even trickier prospect of building on that momentum as he plots his next move.
“I’m looking very carefully at the movies being offered,” Efron said last week on the eve of “17’s” bow. “It’s about taking my fan base with me but then doing movies that open me up to a broader level.”
To that end, “17” could be considered a cinematic bar mitzvah of sorts: The 21-year-old actor proved that he is more than just another pretty boy and that he could be on the verge of becoming a young leading man.
Certainly, some in Hollywood are rooting for him. With such A-listers as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp well into their 40s and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck moving through their 30s, the industry is hungrily looking for new matinee idols to replenish its stock.
Just a few years ago, Efron was scoring parts like Pizza Delivery Guy in the pilot for the short-lived NBC series “Heist,” but when “High School Musical” exploded — first on Disney Channel, then as a theatrical spin-off in October — Efron showed a talent for winning over the hearts of young girls.
The question now is whether Efron can take it beyond a tween following, which alone wouldn’t make for career longevity. Can he parlay his singing and dancing abilities into a full-fledged career, as John Travolta has?