Do you hear that sound? That’s the sound of Madea exclaiming, “Hellur!” and welcoming you to black history in the making.
On Saturday, all of Black Hollywood’s elite descended upon Atlanta to celebrate the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios, the first ever fully black-owned film studio lot. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, the studio has no proprietary partners or corporate backing. This is all Perry, baby.
Notable guests at the grand opening gala included Samuel L. Jackson, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Stacey Abrams, Halle Berry, Tiffany Haddish and a surprise appearance by Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
“Why did it take so long?” Whoopi Goldberg said in an interview with THR. “Why was he the first to get it? Now he’s the man who makes the decisions, chooses the movies, and he doesn’t have to ask anybody for shit. There’s nothing better than that. He’s never on his knees. He gets what he needs because he provided it.”
Perry also gave tribute to the late Diahann Carroll at the event. “Her level of grace, class and inspiration was just beyond anything I could ever imagine,” he said. “The very fact that we were able to have her on the planet at the same time as we are, we should all be very, very blessed.”
For those of us whose invite got lost in the mail, DuVernay came to the rescue and offered a sneak peek at the stunning studio lot.
As you can see in the video, Perry dedicated the sound stages to legends such as Oprah, Harry Belafonte, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg and even his own mother Willie Maxine Perry. And how can your mouth not drop at that White House replica?! Damn.
Plus, DuVernay added an unforgettable fun fact.
“The studio lots of Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox and Sony could fit inside Tyler Perry’s studio lot at the same time - and there would still be 60 acres to spare,” DuVernay tweeted, also noting that the lot stands on a former Confederate Army base.
People took to Twitter to express their awe and excitement over the newly opened lot. As many people who have been following Perry’s career know, his literal rags-to-riches story is quite the impressive feat.
The conversation around the studio’s grand opening has been a bit layered. In addition to the black community discussing the problematic stereotypes in his films and television shows throughout the years, Perry has been wrapped in controversy regarding his adverse relationship with unions. In 2015, the Actors’ Equity Association added Perry to its “do not work” list, citing Perry’s refusal to sign its contract.
Additionally, according to Deadline, Perry decided not to join the Hollywood boycott of Georgia in reaction to its “heartbeat” abortion law.
“Atlanta has been the dream. It has been the promised land,” Perry noted, while confirming he is against the new law. “So when I got here, this whole state and city has been amazing to me and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Also, I put $250 million in the ground here and in the studio. So when you have a quarter of a billion dollars sat down in the ground, you can’t just up and leave.”
Perry has been having quite the prosperous week. He recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Perry also appeared on the cover of People and discussed his future, including moving forward from his most popular character of Madea.
“I stayed that course bringing joy and laughter and lifting people,” he told the magazine before teasing a possible fictional government office run for the bodacious maternal character. “It had its purpose and its power. For right now I’m done.”
Perry may be done with Madea, but he’s just getting started on the next level of his empire. He recently partnered with BET for its new digital channel, BET+, which just announced its upcoming lineup including two series he produced, The Oval and Sistas.
Yep, welcome to Atlanta, where the Black Hollywood players play.