Film work continued with Waiting to Exhale (which opened December 1995, preceded by the soundtrack album in November). The critically acclaimed film, starring Whitney, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon and directed by Forrest Whitaker, went on to gross more than $70 million (in '90s dollars). The soundtrack for Waiting to Exhale featured three new tracks from Whitney: the number one pop and number one R&B song "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"; the top 10 pop and R&B follow-up "Count On Me" (a duet with CeCe Winans), co-written by Whitney and Babyface; and "Why Does It Hurt So Bad." The album spent five weeks at number one, was certified seven times platinum in the United States and has sold nearly twice that worldwide to date.
Whitney's third motion picture, The Preacher's Wife (Buena Vista, December 1996), also starring Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance and directed by Penny Marshall, was based on the 1947 classic The Bishop's Wife (with Cary Grant and Loretta Young). The gospel-soaked Arista soundtrack, Whitney's lifelong dream, became the biggest-selling gospel album in Billboard chart history, three times platinum in the United States alone. Collaborations with an extraordinary roster of artists and producers (among them Grammy and Dove Award winner Mervyn Warren of Sister Act I and Sister Act II fame) resulted in a unique album. Whitney sang lead vocals on 14 of the album's 15 tracks, including the beautiful first single "I Believe in You and Me," "Step By Step" (written by Annie Lennox) and two songs produced by Grammy winner Babyface. Cissy turned the familiar 23rd Psalm into a spiritually touching song, "The Lord Is My Shepherd." Other luminaries on the album included Shirley Caesar and the Georgia Mass Choir.
Whitney added the medium of made-for-television movies to her list of accomplishments when The Wonderful World of Disney aired the musical Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella in November 1997. The special starred Whitney as the Fairy Godmother, Brandy as Cinderella, Bernadette Peters as the wicked stepmother, Whoopi Goldberg as the queen and an all-star multicultural cast. The program drew a U.S. audience of more than 60 million viewers and gave the ABC network its highest Sunday night rating in more than a decade. Whitney and her company, BrownHouse Productions, served as executive producers on the project, which garnered seven Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy. The home video version shattered previous records to become the best-selling video of a made-for-television movie.