The site for Georgia's Democratic presidential debate, Tyler Perry Studios, is located southwest of downtown Atlanta on the site of the former Fort McPherson army facility.
The studio on 330 acres is the only major film studio in the nation owned by an African American. It’s larger in acreage than any of the major studios in Los Angeles. Tyler Perry, 50, purchased the land in 2015 for $30 million and has invested more than $250 million fixing it up.
He is known for his ten “Madea” films and a vast array of TV projects such as OWN’s “The Haves and the Have Nots” and the new “Sistas” and “The Oval” on BET. Earlier this month, he hosted a studio opening gala at the studios attracting dozens of big-name celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith, Beyoncé. Hank Aaron, John Lewis and Andrew Young.
Of particular note, because it will host a debate among presidential candidates on Nov. 20, the grounds include a replica of the White House for “The Oval,” which debuted this week. It is about 80 percent to scale.
The complex features 12 sound stages for rent. In an interview with the AJC, Perry said he at first planned to only open the stages to others when he was finished with all 12 but demand was so great, he began letting outsiders use them more than three years ago. With the 12th sound stage only finished last month did he feel comfortable hosting the opening gala.
He named each sound stage after a legendary African-American filmmaker and/or actor because Perry said he didn’t see any of those names on studios in L.A. like Paramount and Disney. Among those who received their own sound stages: Denzel Washington, Cicely Tyson, Sydney Poitier, Della Reese, Diahann Carroll and Harry Belafonte.
The back lot is impressive in its scope. Besides the replica White House, there’s a mansion that has different looks on each side, a suburban subdivision, retail shops and restaurants, a trailer park, a functioning diner, a lake, a jail and an airport terminal. He’d like to eventually build out more urban streetscapes and a half-mile six-lane highway.
Perry told the AJC he’s also planning a theater for concerts and other events on his property that could potentially seat up to 3,000. He is also going to open the studio up for public tours and he is considering a shelter for sex trafficking victims.
Fort McPherson, less than six miles southwest of downtown Atlanta, was founded in 1885 and named for Maj. Gen. James McPherson, the highest-ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. But during the Civil War, the land was used by Confederate soldiers as a training ground in a war fought over the enslavement of black people. Perry, as a black man, has said he takes pride that he is now able to turn it into a center of power for black entertainment.
The base was closed by the military in 2011. It was the former headquarters for U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and also the U.S. Army Reserve Command. Many of those buildings remain and Perry uses them for films and TV shows as well as living quarters for visiting actors.
Atlanta still owns 144 acres of Fort McPherson and has yet to decide what to place there.
Read the full story: Director, actor and now developer. Tyler Perry opens studios with gala
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