LOS ANGELES, June 14, 2016 – MIRAMAX® has acquired U.S. distribution rights on Whitney from Oscar® winning director Kevin Macdonald (Marley, Touching the Void, One Day in September) the studio announced today, and will reteam with frequent partner Roadside Attractions to handle the U.S. theatrical release.
The forthcoming documentary feature about the career of the late legendary singer Whitney Houston will be produced by fellow Oscar® winner Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man), along with his Lightbox Media partner and Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (Fantastic Lies), and multi-Emmy-nominated producer Lisa Erspamer (Running From Crazy). Executive Producers are Will Clarke, Andy Mayson and Mike Runagall from Altitude Film Entertainment, who are handling international sales and introduced the project to buyers at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where the project sold out.
With over 200 million album sales worldwide, and remaining the only artist to chart seven consecutive U.S. No. 1’s, Whitney Houston became the voice of a generation. Coming from an esteemed lineage of singers, Whitney was destined to be plucked from her gospel-singing roots to rule the world stage. She inspired a generation of singers and her unforgettable performance of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ moved the nation.
The Whitney Houston Estate has granted the filmmakers exclusive and unprecedented access to a vast archive of material never seen before. The film will also feature interviews with Houston’s friends, family and collaborators — some of whom have never gone on record before — to give their perspective on the multi-faceted star. Macdonald’s feature documentary will be a definitive, unvarnished and complete account Houston’s life and work.
Whitney will be the third joint release for MIRAMAX® and Roadside who have previously partnered on the critically acclaimed 2015 indie hit Mr. Holmes and the upcoming release of Southside With You, which will open domestically on August 26th. The film marks the first documentary feature for MIRAMAX® under new ownership, and a return to documentaries for Roadside, whose past documentaries include the Academy Award® winning The Cove and the Academy Award® nominated Super Size Me.
In addition to U.S. distribution rights, MIRAMAX® have also acquired over a dozen international territories, including Latin America, China, CIS, and Benelux. WME Global negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.
Elsewhere Altitude licensed the film to ARP (France), Wild Bunch (Germany, Italy, Spain), Impuls (Switzerland), Bohemia Motion Pictures (Czech Republic), Kino Świat (Poland), 2i Film (Ex-Yugoslavia), NonStop Entertainment (Scandinavia and the Baltics), Tohokushinsha (Japan), Edko (Hong Kong), Pancinema (South Korea), CMC Entertainment (Taiwan), IPA Asia Pacific (Thailand), Transmission (Australia, New Zealand), Gulf (Middle East) and Bir Film (Turkey). As previously announced, Altitude Film Distribution will handle the UK release.
Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald said: “The story that is never told about Whitney is just how brilliant she was as an artist; by many measures she had the greatest voice of the last 50 years. She changed the way pop music was sung - bringing it back full circle to its blues and gospel roots. She was also completely unique in being a pop star who sold in countries where black artists didn’t traditionally sell.
“We have access to never-before-seen footage of Whitney that charts her whole life from her beginnings singing in her Church's gospel choir, to the day of her tragic death at the age of 48 and three decades of her music including exclusive demo recordings, rare performances and audio archive. Although we won’t shy away from the darker parts of Whitney’s life - her descent into addiction - I want audiences to walk out of the cinema and feel positive about Whitney and her music. I want to reveal a woman that even her most die-hard fans never knew; and a woman those new to her life and music will never forget.”
Producer Simon Chinn added: “My business partner Jonathan Chinn and I were thrilled when Lisa Erspamer brought this amazing project to us – and even more thrilled when Kevin Macdonald came on to direct. The opportunity to tell Whitney Houston’s story with full access to her music and those who knew her best was simply too good to pass up. By casting her story, her life choices and her work in a new light, we want to reassess the life and legacy of one of music’s biggest stars.”
Mike Runagall, Managing Director, Altitude Film Sales said: “The buyer reaction in Cannes has been incredible. The prospect of an Academy Award® -winning team collaborating with the Whitney Houston Estate to bring the revealing, honest and celebratory story of Whitney Houston to life proved irresistible.”
About Roadside Attractions
In just over a decade, ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS films have grossed over $200M and garnered thirteen Academy Award® nominations. Roadside has released such critical and commercial hits as LOVE & FRIENDSHIP, A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS, LOVE & MERCY, CHI-RAQ, MR. HOLMES, A MOST WANTED MAN, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, THE SKELETON TWINS, ALL IS LOST, MUD, WINTER’S BONE, THE COVE, ARBITRAGE, MARGIN CALL and SUPER-SIZE ME. Its upcoming slate includes GENIUS, directed by Michael Grandage and starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Laura Linney; SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU, written by Richard Tanne, who also makes his directorial debut, and inspired by the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama in Chicago in 1989;Kenneth Lonergan’s MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler; the British spy thriller film OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, directed by Susanna White and written by Hossein Amini, adapted from John le Carré's novel of the same name, starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis, and Alicia von Rittberg; and James Schamus’ directorial debut INDIGNATION, the adaptation of the Philip Roth novel.
About Altitude Film Entertainment
The Altitude Film Entertainment group comprises Altitude Film Production led by Will Clarke chairman and joint-CEO with Andy Mayson; Altitude Film Sales with Managing Director Mike Runagall; and Altitude Film Distribution with Head of Distribution Hamish Moseley.
Altitude Film Distribution has expanded its slate extensively over the two and half years since its launch. Last year it released the Oscar® and BAFTATM award-winning feature documentary Amy which has not only met with critical acclaim for the filmmakers but has also been a huge success for Altitude grossing over £3.8 million at the UK box office. AFD has also released two more of last year’s most highly regarded feature documentary titles in the UK, Palio and My Nazi Legacy, both of which were nominated alongside Amy for Best Documentary at the 2016 Evening Standard Awards. Other releases have included Nick Read’s Bolshoi Babylon, Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange, Bharat Nalluri’s Spooks: The Greater Good and Oren Moverman’s Time Out Of Mind. Forthcoming releases include Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, Ira Sachs’ Little Men, Asif Kapadia’s Maradona, Race (Starring Stephan James, Jason Sudiekis and Jeremy Irons), Alone in Berlin (Starring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleason) and The Odyssey (starring Lambert Wilson, Audrey Tautou and Pierre Niney).
The Altitude sales slate for Cannes included Maradona; The Girl with All the Gifts, directed by Colm McCarthy, starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close and Sennia Nanua; Ghost Stories, based on the Olivier nominated supernatural stage production, co-written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman and set to star Martin Freeman, George MacKay and Andy Nyman; Stockholm directed by Matt Spicer; Gateway 6 directed by Tanel Toom and starring Rhys Ifans and Ed Skein; Kill Your Friends, based on the cult satirical novel by John Niven, directed by Owen Harris and starring Nicholas Hoult, James Corden and Georgia King; 47 Meters Down directed by Johannes Roberts, starring Claire Holt, Mandy Moore and Matthew Modine; and Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word directed by Simon Rumley and starring Mike Doyle, Erin Cummings and Sean Patrick Flanery. www.altitudefilment.com
Headquartered in London and Los Angeles, Lightbox is a multi-platform media company creating high quality non-fiction content for an array of distribution platforms. It was founded by two-time Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) and Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (American High, 30 Days). Lightbox is currently in production on Captive, a major 8-part documentary series for Netflix about international hostage crises; LA92, a feature documentary on the 1992 LA riots for National Geographic Channels, directed by the Academy Award-winning filmmakers behind Undefeated; an exclusive access documentary series on British Vogue for BBC Two; The Traffickers, an 8-part series on global trafficking for Fusion; and other series for Channel 4, FX Productions, BBC and Red Bull Media. It has previously produced documentary series for Xbox Entertainment Studios, NBC Universal’s Esquire Network and recently produced Fantastic Lies for ESPN’s prestigious 30 for 30 strand, which was one of the network’s highest ever rated feature docs. Lightbox is closely aligned with Simon Chinn’s feature documentary label, Red Box Films. www.lightboxent.com
About Lisa Erspamer Entertainment
Lisa Erspamer Entertainment is a Los Angeles based multi-media production and consulting company focused on scripted and non-scripted content. The company has brought its unique media and storytelling expertise to clients such as Starbucks, Sony Television, People Magazine, Pinterest, Apple and more. Founder Lisa Erspamer is known for her nearly 20 year collaboration with Harpo Productions, as chief creative officer and executive vice president of Programming and Development for The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
While there, she produced some of the show’s most memorable episodes, including the biggest flash mob in history, Oprah’s After Oscar® Specials and Whitney Houston’s final interview. While at OWN, Lisa executive produced the Primetime Emmy-nominated documentary, Running From Crazy about the Hemingway dynasty. In addition to the current Whitney documentary, Lisa has several other projects in production under the moniker Happy Street Entertainment, a company she co-founded, including a Faith Hill talk show hosted by Kellie Pickler and a documentary on legendary songwriter Diane Warren.
Erspamer is also a New York Times bestselling author. Her series of books include A Letter To My Dog, A Letter To My Cat and A Letter To My Mom. Her latest book, A Letter To My Baby is slated for 2017.