2020 Atlanta movie and TV year in review: Tyler Perry, Netflix, CNN, COVID impact

Tyler Perry was deemed a billionaire; Dolly Parton shot "Christmas in the Square" in Atlanta and local CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta was ubiquitous on TV. (L-R Tyler Perry Studios; Netflix; CNN)
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Tyler Perry was deemed a billionaire; Dolly Parton shot "Christmas in the Square" in Atlanta and local CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta was ubiquitous on TV. (L-R Tyler Perry Studios; Netflix; CNN)

Credit: (L-R Tyler Perry Studios; Netflix; CNN)

Credit: (L-R Tyler Perry Studios; Netflix; CNN)

Local TV news was aided by election, runoff ad revenue.

When 2020 began, the state of Georgia was looking for another blockbuster year in TV and film production. Studios were full. Streaming services were pumping out content. Folks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Melissa McCarthy and Kevin Hart had planted firm roots here to shoot productions.

Then the pandemic hit in March, and everything shut down. With COVID-19 protocols in place, production started back up in June and the number of production was close to normal by November, though most films and TV shows were using reduced staff.

But movie theaters took a major hit, and many are teetering on the precipice of ruin as many major films were moved to on-demand streaming services or well into next year.

Local news operations took a major hit in ad revenue in the spring, but the presidential election and the current Senate runoff have helped make up the difference. CBS46 saw plenty of changes, as usual, while the other three major networks remained relatively stable.

Here are some of the biggest stories of 2020:

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Credit: Variety magazine

Tyler Perry, the billionaire

While Perry recently said he was single and going through a “midlife crisis,” his professional career is thriving. Forbes studied his financials and said he is now a billionaire. The Emmy’s rewarded him a Governor’s Award. He was able to shoot several of his shows at Tyler Perry Studios by keeping everyone on campus and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on COVID tests. He released his first Netflix movie. He provided all sorts of charitable giving during the pandemic, for cops, seniors, wait staff and families for Thanksgiving. He comforted George Floyd’s family and wrote an emotional plea for healing on the cover of People magazine. And he’s just getting started. He’s just 51.

ExplorePODCAST: How Tyler Perry produces shows during a pandemic
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SWEET MAGNOLIAS

Credit: ELIZA MORSE/NETFLIX

SWEET MAGNOLIAS
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SWEET MAGNOLIAS

Credit: ELIZA MORSE/NETFLIX

Credit: ELIZA MORSE/NETFLIX

The Netflix effect

Georgia is home to two of Netflix’s biggest shows “Ozark” and “Stranger Things,” along with well-regarded drama “Raising Dion.” Dolly Parton shot her Netflix “Christmas in the Square” movie here. The hit romantic dramedy “Sweet Magnolias” was a Georgia production and has been given a second season. The first season of reality show “Love Is Blind” was also produced locally. And Netflix picked up Atlanta-produced “Cobra Kai” from YouTube, which will debut its third season in early 2021.

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Kevin Hart speaks during the FX segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on Jan. 9, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Kevin Hart speaks during the FX segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on Jan. 9, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images/TNS)
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Kevin Hart speaks during the FX segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on Jan. 9, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Who tested positive for COVID-19?

Many well-known metro Atlantans with film, TV and media ties reported getting the virus. Kevin Hart got it while shooting a film and prepping for a Netflix special early in the pandemic while in Atlanta. Westminster grad and CNN host Brooke Baldwin, now based in New York, also got it early. The Rock, who now has a residence in Lithia Springs, caught the virus over the summer, though it’s unclear if he got it while in Georgia. Atlanta crime TV and radio host Nancy Grace and her family have recently been fighting it. Former Atlantan and star of “Chrisley Knows Best” Todd Chrisley was hospitalized but recuperated. Former “Real Housewives” cast member Sheree Whitfield survived the virus. Actor Stephen Amell (”Arrow”) received a positive COVID test while shooting Starz’ show “Heels” in Atlanta.

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Quibi is shutting down just 6 months after launch

Quibi is shutting down just 6 months after launch
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Quibi is shutting down just 6 months after launch

New streaming services

Quibi debuted and collapsed in quick order and featured one Atlanta-based scripted show “Die Hart” starring Hart and John Travolta. HBO Max and Peacock launched, too, and are now competing with existing behemoths Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix. The mad scramble for market share and eyeballs is now in high gear and will continue unabated into 2021. AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia and has thousands of employees in Atlanta, has thrown all its strategic eggs into the HBO Max basket while de-emphasizing its cable networks such as TBS and TNT.

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Trilith Studios in Fayetteville is among the film industry companies getting Georgia state tax incentives. Courtesy Trilith Studios

Credit: Courtesy Trilith Studios

Trilith Studios in Fayetteville is among the film industry companies getting Georgia state tax incentives. Courtesy Trilith Studios
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Trilith Studios in Fayetteville is among the film industry companies getting Georgia state tax incentives. Courtesy Trilith Studios

Credit: Courtesy Trilith Studios

Credit: Courtesy Trilith Studios

Pinewood Studios now Trilith

Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, the largest in the state, became Trilith after the U.K. company sold its share back to River’s Rock, an independently managed trust of the Cathy family, which now owns the entire studio and owns Chick-fil-A. Frank Patterson, who runs the studio, is expanding into production and hopes to eventually have 1,400 homes and 5,000 there as well. Disney remains a major client, having shot several upcoming Disney+ series including “WandaVision,” “Loki” and “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”

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Credit: AJC file photo from 2017

Huge year for CNN

Technically, AT&T’s CNN is still headquartered in Atlanta, but the nexus of power is now in New York City, where they recently moved into new offices. (In Atlanta, AT&T has put CNN Center up for sale.) Regardless, the news network saw huge ratings spikes this year thanks to the triple combo of the presidential election , the pandemic and social unrest. And Atlanta-based Sanjay Gupta became a regular presence on air thanks to COVID-19. But with Pres. Donald Trump leaving office, the big question mark is how will the network do come 2021? And will president Jeff Zucker stay?

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An Atlanta Police Department patrol car is engulfed in flames after demonstrators set it ablaze and destroyed other patrol cars outside of the CNN Center in Atlanta, Friday, May 29, 2020. Following a peaceful march to the Georgia State Capitol to protest racial injustice and police brutality, demonstrators returned to the area around Centennial Olympic Park and CNN center and clashed with police. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

An Atlanta Police Department patrol car is engulfed in flames after demonstrators set it ablaze and destroyed other patrol cars outside of the CNN Center in Atlanta, Friday, May 29, 2020. Following a peaceful march to the Georgia State Capitol to protest racial injustice and police brutality, demonstrators returned to the area around Centennial Olympic Park and CNN center and clashed with police. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
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An Atlanta Police Department patrol car is engulfed in flames after demonstrators set it ablaze and destroyed other patrol cars outside of the CNN Center in Atlanta, Friday, May 29, 2020. Following a peaceful march to the Georgia State Capitol to protest racial injustice and police brutality, demonstrators returned to the area around Centennial Olympic Park and CNN center and clashed with police. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Protests impact Atlanta journalists

Reporters both local and national covering the protests that followed the killings of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, placed themselves in the line of fire of tear gas and occasional detentions and harassment by cops. And they did all this during a pandemic.

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Off the many departures from local news included Katie Walls from WSB to North Carolina; Marissa Mitchell from Fox 5 to D.C. and Mike Dunston from CBS46 to Spectrum News. PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Off the many departures from local news included Katie Walls from WSB to North Carolina; Marissa Mitchell from Fox 5 to D.C. and Mike Dunston from CBS46 to Spectrum News. PUBLICITY PHOTOS
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Off the many departures from local news included Katie Walls from WSB to North Carolina; Marissa Mitchell from Fox 5 to D.C. and Mike Dunston from CBS46 to Spectrum News. PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Local news comings and goings

Katie Walls, meteorologist at WSB moved to North Carolina. WSB’s Aaron Diamant joined the University of Georgia. Marissa Mitchell left Fox 5 for Fox 5 in D.C. A raft of CBS6 exits included Astrid Martinez, Alicia Roberts, Adam Harding, Mike Dunston, Jonathan Carlson and Daniel Wilkerson. Faith Abubey left 11Alive for ABC News. Kelsey Wingert was let go as Braves field reporter on Fox Sports, replaced by Kelly Crull; Jorge Estevez joined WSB as an evening anchor following Craig Lucie’s departure while Fox 5 introduced two new anchors Courtney Bryant and Christine Sperow after Cynné Simpson left.

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CR: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

CR: Bravo
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CR: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ changes

NeNe Leakes left the show a second time while Drew Sidora has arrived as a newcomer. Eva Marcille also departed. Porsha Williams becomes a social justice warrior, getting arrested twice in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Breonna Taylor. Cynthia Bailey got married to sportscaster Mike Hill while Kenya Moore edged toward divorce with her husband Marc Daly. Kandi Burress won “The Masked Singer” and had a notable acting role on “The Chi.”

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Not that you were ever worried about them, but the last survivors of the first season of "The Walking Dead," Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus, left) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride as) now have plot armor, because they have to survive to the end of season 11, when they will get their own spinoff show. (Jace Downs/AMC/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Not that you were ever worried about them, but the last survivors of the first season of "The Walking Dead," Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus, left) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride as) now have plot armor, because they have to survive to the end of season 11, when they will get their own spinoff show. (Jace Downs/AMC/TNS)
Caption
Not that you were ever worried about them, but the last survivors of the first season of "The Walking Dead," Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus, left) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride as) now have plot armor, because they have to survive to the end of season 11, when they will get their own spinoff show. (Jace Downs/AMC/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

“The Walking Dead” finally ending

AMC announced that the show will conclude after 11 seasons, but the final episodes won’t air until 2022. So, there will be plenty of production set for 2021. And the studio in Senoia will be used for other “Walking Dead”-related shows down the road. The show’s ratings have fallen off sharply over the past five years.

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No more “Sister Circle”

While Steve Harvey has returned to Atlanta to shoot his Facebook Watch talk show and “Family Feud,” the NBC/TV One talk show “Sister Circle” featuring four Black women was cut after three seasons. The season three hosts were Quad Webb, Syleena Johnson, Trina Braxton, and Rashan Ali.

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Olivia de Havilland as Melanie and Leslie Howard as Ashley in a scene from Gone With The Wind. © 1998 New Line Cinema.

Credit: SEE CAPTION

Olivia de Havilland as Melanie and Leslie Howard as Ashley in a scene from Gone With The Wind. © 1998 New Line Cinema.
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Olivia de Havilland as Melanie and Leslie Howard as Ashley in a scene from Gone With The Wind. © 1998 New Line Cinema.

Credit: SEE CAPTION

Credit: SEE CAPTION

“Gone With the Wind” briefly gone from HBO Max

Given how Black actors are portrayed in the classic 1939 Civil War-era film set in Atlanta, HBO Max briefly took the film off its streaming service. When it returned, they added TCM historian and academic Jacqueline Stewart to provide context before the start of the film.

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Credit: Parvati Shallow with Natalie Anderson. CR: CBS

Reality show performances

UGA grad Parvati Shallow was the seventh contestant out on CBS’s “Survivor: Winners at War.” Emory grad Judy Ho is featured on HBO Max’s “House of Ho.” Atlanta restaurateur Kevin Gillespie landed in fourth place on “Top Chef All-Stars” after coming back from “Last Chance Kitchen.” The spring version of “The Voice” featured three Atlantans in the top nine: Toneisha Harris, Micah Iverson and Megan Danielle. Local singer Cristina Rae made it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent.” Georgia nurse Haley Johnson just missed the finals on “Titan Games.”

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"Greenleaf" wraps after five seasons on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.

"Greenleaf" wraps after five seasons on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.
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"Greenleaf" wraps after five seasons on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.

Notable Atlanta-produced shows that ended in 2020

OWN’s “Greenleaf,” the CW’s “Black Lightning,” IFC’s “Brockmire,” OWN’s “If Loving You Is Wrong”

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Don McClellan, a veteran WSB-TV reporter, died Sept. 27, 2020, at age 88. He was still filing reports for the station well into his 80s. Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: Channel 2

Don McClellan, a veteran WSB-TV reporter, died Sept. 27, 2020, at age 88. He was still filing reports for the station well into his 80s. Credit: WSB-TV
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Don McClellan, a veteran WSB-TV reporter, died Sept. 27, 2020, at age 88. He was still filing reports for the station well into his 80s. Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: Channel 2

Credit: Channel 2

RIP

Don McClellan, WSB reporter for 50 years.

Bobbie Batista, former HLN host.

Former11alive pilot/reporter Bruce Erion.

CNN’s first president Reese Schonfeld.

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