LOS ANGELES — Whitney Houston's career is getting a post-mortem boost, but it isn't likely to be as big as the one that enriched the King of Pop's estate after his death.
Like the late Michael Jackson, Houston was attempting a career revival. She was found dead at age 48 on Saturday in her Los Angeles hotel room on the eve of the Grammys, a stage she once ruled.
It could be weeks before the coroner's office completes toxicology tests that could establish the cause of death.
In an outpouring of grief — and a desire to remember her soaring voice and upbeat personality — Houston's fans have propelled her decades-old recordings to the top of sales charts on iTunes and Amazon.com.
Not unlike Jackson's posthumous star turn in the movie This Is It, she will star in a film set for release this fall, Sparkle. In addition, dozens of the six-time Grammy winner's unreleased recordings may someday be released.
"It really is a finite universe of celebrities that are able to transcend their own death to create commercial opportunities," said David Reeder, vice president at GreenLight, a subsidiary of Corbis Images that helps license the images and work of late icons such as Albert Einstein and Johnny Cash. "People want to remember her back in 1986 at her peak, when nobody was doing it better than she was."
If Houston breaks into Forbes' list of top-earning dead celebrities in 2012, she will likely get in "toward the bottom end" with single-digit millions of dollars, Reeder said. Michael Jackson dominated the list in 2010 and 2011, after his death three years ago.
There are no signs that Houston made savvy investments like Jackson. He had a 50 percent stake of one of the world's largest music publishing catalogs, Sony/ATV. Houston was known for her voice, but not for songwriting, which can generate lucrative revenue from years of radio play.
Lawyer Bryan Blaney said that if the singer did not have a will, the proceeds of any continuing revenues would go to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18.
It's not clear whether Houston had debts, but she lost homes in New Jersey and Georgia to foreclosure several years ago, and some reports said she had recently tried to borrow small amounts of money from friends.