Houston had prepped for bigscreen return in Sony pic

The death of Whitney Houston came just as the pop star was planning her return to the bigscreen in Sony’s musical-drama “Sparkle,” dated for Aug. 17.

Houston plays the mother of three sisters who, after forming a singing group, are forced to cope with the effects of fame and drugs. A re-tooling of the 1976 film, “Sparkle” features an ensemble cast including Jordin Sparks, Mike Epps and Derek Luke. Pic is directed by Salim Akil from a script by Mara Brock Akil, the pair behind the hit BET sitcom “The Game.”

She also recorded several numbers for the soundtrack, which features original music by R. Kelly.

Sony is not expected to change its release plan for the pic. The studio would not comment on the matter beyond a statement issued Saturday: “Like all those who knew and loved her, we are shocked and saddened and the world has lost an incomparable talent. Right now our thoughts are with her daughter, her family and her friends.”

Houston, who last appeared in theaters with 1996’s “The Preacher’s Wife,” served as an exec producer on “Sparkle.”

Currently in post-production, the film marks only the fourth theatrical credit for Houston. In addition to “Preacher’s Wife,” the singer toplined “Waiting to Exhale” in 1995, after making her bigscreen debut in 1992’s B.O. hit “The Bodyguard,” which grossed $122 million domestically.

Typical of most African-American targeted fare, “Sparkle’s” theatrical run likely will be targeted mainly at U.S. audiences. But according to Rentrak, the pic currently is dated to bow in some major overseas territories later this year.

Sony first dated “Sparkle” for its Stateside August release in December 2011.

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