If Tyler Perry doesn’t inspire you to dream and act big, we don’t know what will. The business and entertainment mogul just opened one of the largest film studios in the country and in the process, became the first Black person to own and head a major film studio of this size and caliber.
Perry hosted a star studded event that gathered the creme de la creme in Black excellence to celebrate. Attendees included Congressman John Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Patti Labelle, Bill Clinton, Beyonce, Cicely Tyson, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and countless others. While attendees were instructed not to take photos or post to social media, the reflections they shared on Instagram (shout out to Ava’s IG stories) and Twitter afterwards made the magnitude of the room and occasion clear.
Essence’s entertainment director, Cori Murray, posted to her Twitter account, “I’m not supposed to share what I’m witnessing but if I die tomorrow, just know I died fulfilled and very proud to be Black. That is all.”
At 330 acres the Atlanta based studio is large enough to fit Warner Bros, Disney, Fox and Paramount studios combined. Previously a Confederate Army base, the location is now a permanent reflection of Black excellence. The property hosts numerous houses (including a replica of The White House), expansive green space and 12 sound stages available for rent. The stages bear the names of Black luminaries who have blazed trails in the film and entertainment industry. They include Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Sidney Poitier, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Della Reese, Cicely Tyson, John Singleton and Diahann Carroll. According to the Tyler Perry Studios website, the stages range in size from 20,000 to 40,000 square feet.
Perry spoke about the studio during his Ultimate Icon speech at the BET awards.
“When I built my studio, I built it in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest Black neighborhoods in Atlanta so that young Black kids could see that a Black man did that, and they can do it too. I was trying to help somebody cross,” he said. “The studio was once a Confederate Army base, which meant that there were Confederate soldiers on that base, plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million Negroes enslaved… Now that land is owned by one Negro.”
Perry’s historic $250 million studios was made possible through his audacity to believe in his dream and his courage to act before waiting for others to validate him.
In the spirit of Because of Them We Can, the path for Tyler Perry began to form in the early 1900s thanks to Oscar Micheaux. He is credited with having the first movie company owned and ran by an African-American filmmaker. Additionally, while Perry is the first to establish a major film studio that rivals that of Hollywood, another pioneer who ventured into this space was Tim Reid and his wife Daphne Maxwell Reid. In 1997 they founded New Millennium Studios, a sixty acre full-service studio in Virginia. The couple sold it for $1.5 million in 2015 citing a lack of incentives to bring film productions to the state.
During his red carpet interview, Perry told Essence that he hopes the studio becomes a sign for others who are dreaming that they can do it too.
Here are some of our favorite red carpet photos courtesy of Taylor Hunter Photography.