Oct 21, 2019

By Nicole Bitette
A built-to-scale White House is only the beginning.

The new Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta sprawls across 330 acres. It has an airport terminal, a strip mall, two baseball fields, a golf course, a residential neighborhood, and a near-exact replica of the White House. It even has its own exit sign on Georgia State Route 166.

It's one of the biggest film studios in America and it’s the only one created by a singular namesake. Walt and Roy built Disney, four brothers assembled Warner Brothers, several companies collaborated to create Paramount Pictures’ lot. But at Tyler Perry Studios, all roads lead back to Perry.

 

Which, of course, is why the lot is so expansive. Perry is a prolific creator. He’s directed 20 films, which grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide; he’s written, directed, and produced eight TV series; and both his books landed on the New York Times best-seller list. He turned the character of Madea from a stage character to a film franchise matriarch to become what critic Hilton Als described “as the most financially successful black man the American film industry has ever known.”

“What we're doing here at Tyler Perry Studios hasn't been done in a hundred years. We're building a major motion picture studio,” says Steve Mensch, president and general manager of studio operations at Tyler Perry Studios. “I feel like I'm on the ground with a legend.”

"I get to fill this space with all the dreams and ideas that are in my head."

As part of a Viacom deal announced in 2017, Perry will produce roughly 90 television episodes per year for BET, short-form video content across the company’s networks, and will grant Paramount Pictures exclusive first-look rights on feature films. His first shows for BET, Sistas and The Oval, will premiere on Oct. 23.

“The great thing about having this deal with Viacom is not only being able to program BET and BET+, which I'm really excited about, but being able to program across all the channels like Comedy Central and VH1 and Nickelodeon,” Perry tells Viacom. “All of those things are so exciting on so many levels because I get to fill this space with all the dreams and ideas that are in my head.”

“There’s no grander feeling than rolling up to Tyler Perry Studios,” says Daniel Croix Henderson who portrays Jason Franklin, the son of President and First Lady Franklin on The Oval. “Everything is going on here.”

"What we're doing here at Tyler Perry Studios hasn't been done in a hundred years. We're building a major motion picture studio."

Steve Mensch

President and General Manager, Tyler Perry Studios

Croix Henderson says spending all of his time at the studio’s White House replica made him feel like a member of a presidential family. “Showing up the first day, [I was] just crying because of its epic proportions,” he says. “Once we started filming, I was there every day, so it started to feel like I lived there ... It really hooked my imagination right into The Oval.”

The studio lot is located on the former Fort McPherson Confederate army base. ("Think about the poetic justice in that … The Confederate Army is fighting to keep Negroes enslaved in America, fighting, strategy, planning on this very ground. And now this very ground is owned by me,” Perry told CBS This Morning.)

It features numerous permanent sets, 12 sound stages, a quarter of a million feet of office space, and acres of woods. It also features giant homes with wrap-around porches in what’s known as the historical district, which includes 40 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places that were built between 1885 and 1905. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Colin Powell stayed on the property.

Says Mensch, “For production people, it’s a one-stop solution.”

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