Over the weekend, multi-hyphenate industry leader Tyler Perry made history, becoming the first African-American to ever own a major movie studio. Situated in Atlanta, Georgia, Tyler Perry Studios also happens to be the largest movie studio on American soil, by far.
Director Ava DuVernay broke it down on Twitter. “Fun Fact: The studio lots of Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox and Sony could fit inside @TylerPerry’s studio lot at the same time — and there would still be 60 acres to spare,” she wrote. “All on a former Confederate Army base. A stunning achievement that will echo through the generations.”
Encompassing 330-acres, Tyler Perry Studios is home to 12 sound stages, each named after a groundbreaking figure in the entertainment industry — including stages named after Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey.
A stage was also named after the late Diahann Carroll, who passed away only a day before Perry would dedicate part of his studio to her. Perry shared on Instagram his grief, but also his joy in having been able to appreciate her profound influence as one of film and theater’s most notable black actors. Carroll was the first black woman starring in a television series to portray a realistic character, rather than a racist caricature. “I was so thankful in my soul because I got to be on the planet at the same time as this barrier breaking, race shattering, mythical beauty, that will forever be Diahann Carroll,” wrote Perry. “Thank you Ms. Carroll for how you showed the world that black people are special, strong, beautiful and powerful.”
Tyler Perry Studios has already leased itself out to productions like Black Panther and The Walking Dead. Looking ahead into the near future, it will be home to six different television shows written and directed by Perry. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he insisted that he has been less interested in creating work to please the critics and more focused on catering to an underserved audience; over the course of his career (which includes so many iterations of Madea that it’s hard to keep count), he has pulled in over $1 billion in box office sales. “If I was a white man and had done these things, and had this success, they would have had a much different reaction to me,” he pointed out. “No one, black or white, has been able to do what I’ve been able to do.”
He has credited his success to the dedication of his audience. “Black women especially,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “When they are with you, you can move heaven and Earth. They have been with me from day one.”