Historic Grand Opening Of Tyler Perry Studios Draws Black A-Listers To Atlanta In Droves

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Tyler Perry Studios
Tyler Perry, left, greets U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on the red carpet at the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Invision/AP)

Entertainment mogul and philanthropist Tyler Perry may not have initially had the words to describe the grand opening of his namesake television and film studio, but everyone else who attended the weekend had tons.

“This is history right here. This is history. [It’s] never been done before. They’re gonna look back many, many years ago and see what Tyler Perry did,” iconic filmmaker Spike Lee, who was once a critic of Perry’s, said.

Perry’s longtime friend and collaborator Oprah Winfrey wrote him a heartfelt message on Instagram, along with a picture of the two at the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios.

“@tylerperry you built the biggest studio in America, one that can fit all the other Hollywood studios combined and still have room to spare. You’ve also created a dream of hope and possibility for everyone to know that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can always do better when you’re aligned with the Divine. Thank you for the naming of the soundstages. I love mine. #GloryToGlory #ImagineThis,” Winfrey wrote.

A renowned producer, director, actor, screenwriter, playwright, author, songwriter, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Perry purchased the studio in June 2015. He is the first Black American to own a major TV and film studio outright. Though the studio was already operational, the grand opening event was a sight to behold.

In addition to Lee and Winfrey, Atlanta was saturated with Hollywood’s best and brightest for the historic minting. Guests included: Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Cicely Tyson, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Ava Duvernay, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Halle Berry, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, T.D. Jakes, Viola Davis, Colin Kaepernick, Taraji P. Henson, Usher, Tiffany Haddish, Lance Gross, Keisha Knight Pulliam and a slew of others too plentiful to name.

Many popular political figures like U.S. Reps John Lewis and Maxine Waters, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernice King, Andrew and R. Jai Gillum, Stacey Abrams and more were also in attendance. Festivities included the Saturday night opening ceremonies and a Sunday morning church service and brunch.

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Located on former Confederate army base Fort McPherson (the irony, right), Perry’s studio is larger than the Burbank lots of Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Paramount studios combined.

It spans 330-acres, has 12 sound stages, a replica of the White House, an airport terminal, a mock jumbo jet, a hospital set, a trailer park, a mobile diner, a half-mile, six-lane highway and a suburban subdivision, Curbed Atlanta reported. Perry is also considering bringing a facility to help victims of human trafficking to the massive complex, according to Curbed.

During the festivities, Perry dedicated the sound stages to Black artists in Hollywood he felt made a major impact for the culture. As a man of immense faith, he also buried bibles under each sound stage and the gates of his studio.

“Buried under that when you’re going in and coming out is the open word of God. I’ve buried a Bible at the gates of the studio, so you can’t come in without crossing the word and you can’t leave without crossing the word,” Perry said during a visit at Lakewood Church.

In an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, Perry said despite being ignored by Hollywood, he understands the value and impact of his work.

“I clearly believe that I’m ignored in Hollywood, for sure, and that’s fine. I get it,” Perry said, adding traditional Hollywood execs may not understand or speak the language of his Black audience.

“But I know what I do is important. I know what I do touches millions of people around the world. I know how important every word, every joke, every laugh [is]. I know what that does for the people where I come from and the people that I’m writing for. So, yeah, I get that,” Perry said.

Perry has spent his career offering opportunities to Black people and other people of color who’d been overlooked by mainstream Hollywood – both on and off the screen. His new streaming service BET+ and the staff at his studio reflect that commitment.

“For me what this is about … I know for a fact that when I drive in through these gates … and see the highway sign that says Tyler Perry Studios … and I see these hundreds of people working, these Black and brown (people) – I’ve been on sets where I’ve been the only Black face, only Black face, as recently as 2019, going, “Where are the Black people in this movie behind the camera?’ … so when I come to work here, and every Black person that comes to work here, they go ‘Oh my God, it’s heaven. Here we are, we’re represented, everybody is represented,” Perry said.