October 5, 2019 Atlanta - Major celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, T.D. Jakes, Dallas Austin, Kelly Rowland, and Tyler Perry himsefl, were in town for the opening of Tyler Perry Studios Saturday, October 5, 2019 in Atlanta. Perry acquired the property of Fort McPherson to build a movie studio on 330 acres of land. (Ryon Horne / Ryon.Horne@ajc.com)
Photo: Ryon Horne
Photo: Ryon Horne

Democratic presidential debate on Nov. 20 headed for Tyler Perry’s studio complex

We’re being told that the contract has yet to be signed, but plans are for the fifth debate of Democratic presidential candidates to be held on Nov. 20 at Tyler Perry Studios on the grounds of what once was Fort McPherson.

Updated at 9:15 p.m.: Stacey Abrams confirmed the above in a Twitter message:

Democratic Debate site is set: @TPstudios is a model for Georgia’s vibrant film industry, an engaged corporate citizen and an exceptional location for our #DemDebate. Looking forward to welcoming the candidates to Georgia on November 20. #gapol

The newly opened $250 million studio is the only major film studio in the nation owned by an African American. The debate is certain to point to a crowning achievement for a once-struggling playwright who, more than 20 years ago, had been kicked out of his apartment and was living out of a car.

That’s a message sure to be celebrated by Democrats who will be depending on a strong turn-out by African-Americans, who made up 60% of primary voters in 2018, in the 2020 election season.

Here’s irony for you: Since he bought 330 acres at Fort McPherson in 2015, Perry said he has built 12 massive sound stages for other Hollywood studios to rent.

Most importantly, there's a replica of the White House for his upcoming presidential television series, "The Oval."

Also remember that the debate, hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, will have an all-female brace of moderators. Georgia’s new anti-abortion “heartbeat” law, put on hold by a federal judge, has been a sensitive issue for Georgia’s budding movie and TV industry -- with boycotts postponed while the new measure is litigated.

We’re hearing that the Democratic National Committee had wanted the debate to be held in Sandy Springs, at the city’s new entertainment complex -- to bolster U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta. An announcement had been scheduled for Monday.

But protests from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, we’re told, had forced a reconsideration of the Fort McPherson property. We’ve reached out to the Bottoms administration, but have yet to hear back.

More details to come.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.
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