Whitney (2018 film)

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UK theatrical release poster
Directed byKevin Macdonald
Written byKevin Macdonald
Produced by
  • Simon Chinn
  • Jonathan Chinn
  • Lisa Erspamer
CinematographyNelson Hume
Edited bySam Rice-Edwards
Music byAdam Wiltzie
  • Lisa Erspamer Entertainment
  • Lightbox[1]
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 16 May 2018 (2018-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 6 July 2018 (2018-07-06) (United States)
Running time
122 minutes
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Box office$4.7 million[2]

Whitney is a 2018 documentary film about the American singer and actress Whitney Houston. The film was directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn and Lisa Erspamer. Whitney was screened out of competition at the world premiere as part of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival on 16 May 2018 with a cinema release on 6 July 2018.[3][4][5][6] The film was also released on home media where it debuted at number one on the UK Official Music Video Chart.[7] The film received positive reviews from critics and audiences and grossed $4.7 million worldwide at the box office. In December 2018, Whitney was nominated at the 61st Grammy Awards for Best Music Film.[8]



The concept of a documentary evolved when Lisa Erspamer worked as co-executive producer for the singer’s special two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009. In 2015 Erspamer approached Houston's sister-in-law Pat Houston and Houston’s film agent Nicole David to discuss the idea. David then suggested Scottish film director Kevin Macdonald. Co-producer Simon Chinn recalls: “We raised the full budget in 10 days exclusively from theatrical pre-sales which is quite possibly a first for a documentary.”[9]


In July 2016, Macdonald began filming the interviews of around 70 people. Important members that are interviewed were Ellen White, a family friend, Mary Jones, longtime personal assistant, Houston’s older brothers Michael and Gary and other members of the Houston family.[9] Houston’s mother Cissy was interviewed in Newark, New Jersey, others were conducted in Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta.[9]

More than 1,500 tapes of archival footage of varying quality were found including 250 masters, 2,000 stills and footage originally discovered on YouTube with Sam Dwyer as archive producer. Private footage was gathered from all over the world including Japan, the Netherlands and Los Angeles.[10]


A substantial amount of the editing, including changing screen size, and frame rate was done at Molinare, a post-production company in London’s Soho.[10]


Composer Adam Wiltzie was in charge of the film's music and score.[11] Some excerpt examples used in the soundtrack for the film:[9]


The film is a joint British-American venture produced by Lisa Erspamer Entertainment and Lightbox, with Roadside Attractions, Miramax and Altitude Film Distribution serving as distributors.[12][1][6] It is also presented in association with Altitude Film Entertainment.[13] Whitney was released in cinemas in the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland on 6 July 2018, by (UK) Altitude and (US) Roadside Attractions. It was released in Australia and New Zealand on 26 July 2018.[14][15]

The world premiere for the film was on 16 May 2018 at the Cannes Film Festival.[16][17] Screenings also took place at the Edinburgh and Sydney Film Festivals.[18][19]


The official teaser trailer for the UK and Ireland was released by Altitude Films on 5 April 2018 on YouTube with the full trailer released on 25 May 2018.[20][21]

Home media[edit]

It was released in widescreen by digital download on 2 October and DVD/Blu-ray on 16 October 2018.[22] The DVD and Blu-ray releases include audio commentary from producer Simon Chinn and director Kevin Macdonald, photo gallery and theatrical trailer.[23] The film debuted at #1 on 4 November 2018, staying at that position for two weeks on the UK Official Music Video Chart, based on sales of DVDs and other physical formats.[7]


Box office[edit]

Whitney began its release on 6 July 2018. During its opening weekend in the United States and Canada it grossed $1.3 million from 452 theaters, finishing 11th at the box office. 65% of its audience was female, with 35% being between the age of 25-49.[24]

In the United Kingdom, the film opened on 6 July 2018 grossing £142,936 ($189,923) from 231 screens in its opening weekend, finishing twelfth at the box office.[25][26] It grossed another £44,968 ($59,497) on 174 screens in its second weekend, a 68% decrease over the first week grossing a total of £323,532 ($428,066) through 10 days.[27][26] Over 13 weeks it grossed a total of £459,725.[28]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 164 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Whitney shifts from soaring highs to heartbreaking lows with palpable emotion and grace befitting its singular subject."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Terri White for Empire gave it four out of five, calling it: "A sobering, haunting but completely fresh look at Whitney's life and death that will reframe everything you think you know about the singer."[31] Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote: "In Whitney, Macdonald lays out Houston's story—the light and the darkness—in a classically etched, kinetically edited way. He makes superb use of archival footage, tickles us with montages of her heyday (not just Houston but the whole era—the way her songs, in hindsight, tapped into a certain free-floating ’80s jubilance), and interviews her family members and associates. The film captures the quality that made Whitney Houston magical, but more than that it puts together the warring sides of her soul."[32]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
Grammy Award 10 February 2019 Best Music Film Whitney Nominated[8]
Detroit Film Critics Society 3 December 2018 Best Documentary Whitney Nominated[33]
Edinburgh Film Festival 28 June 2018 Best Documentary Feature Film Whitney Won[34]
Guild of Music Supervisors Awards 13 February 2019 Best Music Supervision for a Documentary Bree Winwood and Gary Welch - Whitney Nominated[35][36]
Critics' Circle Film Awards 20 January 2019 Documentary of the Year Whitney Nominated[37]


Chart (2018) Peak
Irish Music DVD Chart (IRMA) 3[38]
UK Official Music Video Chart (OCC) 1[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Academy Award-Winner Kevin Macdonald To Direct Official Whitney Houston Documentary - 28 April 2016
  2. ^ "Whitney (2018)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  3. ^ WHITNEY - Festival de Cannes
  4. ^ Rooney, David (16 May 2018). "'Whitney': Film Review Cannes 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  5. ^ Miller, Julie (16 May 2018). "Whitney Houston's Dark Family Secret Uncovered in New Documentary". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b WHITNEY - Altitude
  7. ^ a b Official Music Video Chart Top 50 | 4 November 2018 – 10 November 2018
  8. ^ a b "2019 GRAMMY Awards: Complete Nominations List". Grammy.com. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Whitney (2018) - Edinburgh International Film Festival
  10. ^ a b One moment in time: The making of Whitney By Stuart Kemp - 3 July 2018
  11. ^ Adam Wiltzie Scoring Kevin Macdonald’s ‘Whitney’ Documentary - 1 March 2018 by filmmusicreporter in Film Scoring
  12. ^ Whitney (2018) - Edinburgh International Film Festival
  13. ^ Whitney (2018) British Film Institute, Film details
  15. ^ WHITNEY - Altitude Films - UK - Altitude - 6 July 2018, USA - Roadside Attractions - 6 July 2018, Australia/New Zealand - 26 July 2018
  16. ^ Whitney - Cannes Film Festival.
  17. ^ 'Whitney': The Soaring Life and Haunting Death of Whitney Houston - Variety
  18. ^ Edinburgh International Film Festival Whitney Premiere
  19. ^ Whitney - Sydney Film Festival
  20. ^ Whitney - Official UK and IE Teaser Trailer - YouTube
  21. ^ Whitney - Official Trailer, 25 May 2018
  22. ^ WHITNEY’ Documentary - To Be Released Digitally & On DVD/Blu-ray October 2018
  23. ^ "Whitney Blu-ray review". 28 October 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (8 July 2018). "'Ant-Man And The Wasp' Shrinks A Tick To $76M+ Opening, But Still 34% Bigger Than Original – Early Sunday Read". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  25. ^ BFI: Weekend 06-08 July 2018 - UK box office report
  26. ^ a b Whitney (2018) Box Office Mojo
  27. ^ BFI: Weekend 13-15 July 2018 - UK box office report
  28. ^ BFI: Weekend 28-30 September 2018 - UK box office report
  29. ^ "Whitney (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  30. ^ "Whitney Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  31. ^ Whitney Review Empire online
  32. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (2018). "Film Review: 'Whitney'". Variety. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  33. ^ The 2018 Detroit Film Critics Society Awards - BEST DOCUMENTARY
  34. ^ Award Winners | 72nd Edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival
  35. ^ Guild of Music Supervisors Awards: Complete Winners List – Variety
  36. ^ 2019 NOMINEES | Guild of Music Supervisors Awards
  38. ^ Irish Recorded Music Association - Press CHARTS, then Music DVD, scroll to - 16 November 2018
  39. ^ Official Music Video Chart Top 50 - 4 November 2018 – 10 November 2018

External links[edit]