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Boo! Tyler Perry Studios Helps Put Georgia's Film Industry On The Map

Tyler Perry's movie studio sprawls across 330 acres just 10 minutes south of Downtown Atlanta. It has its own green spaces, some 150K SF of office space, its own internet fiber ring, a diner, a 30-acre historic district with more than three dozen nationally recognized historic buildings and soundstage rafters sturdy enough to hang a Boeing 747 on.

Tyler Perry Studios in South Atlanta

The creator behind such cinema outings as "Why Did I Get Married?" "Boo! A Madea Halloween" and the upcoming "Acrimony," and television shows "Love Thy Neighbor," "The Haves and the Have Nots" and "The Paynes" purchased a chunk of a former U.S. Army base named Fort McPherson for $35M in 2015, transforming its varied backdrops into scenes for film production.

It was a Hollywood ending to a story of a South Atlanta community that was facing the prospects of losing thousands of active duty and civilian employees when the military shuttered the former Army base in 2011. Fort McPherson and nearby Fort Gillem were both part of a planned 2005 base realignment that targeted them for closure six years later.

Since Perry purchased the property, his studio has brought hundreds of employees back to the area, and revitalized nearby businesses and has given area economic developers business leads, Fort Mac LRA Executive Director Brian Hooker told Georgia Trend magazine earlier this year. Fort Mac LRA is the organization attempting to redevelop the portions of the former military base not owned by Perry.

"Folks want to lease space on our side of the property or be part of our development so they can service the film studio," he told the magazine.

Tyler Perry Studios President Steven Mensch

“The largest number of people we hit in one single day was 1,700 construction workers,” Tyler Perry Studios President Steven Mensch said, adding that the workforce at the studio is not just working directly on films, but also construction workers creating what he described as "effectively a small city."

While city officials have not quantified it, College Park City Manager Terrence Moore said there is a positive impact to College Park's economy due to the studio's presence.

“There's been more of a noticeable observation of activity along those lines in our community at least all the way back to 2015,” Moore said. “Georgia is a very favorable climate … for production activity. So the current presence is simply a reflection of that evolution. Quite frankly, it's becoming more robust.”

Tyler Perry Studios is one of several film production locations in Georgia and Metro Atlanta. Other major studios in the metro area include EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta, Mailing Avenue Stageworks, Pinewood Atlanta Studio and Third Rail Studios.

What was a cottage industry at one time has blown to a Madea-sized local economy thanks in significant part to tax incentives passed by the state in 2008. Productions of at least $500K get a 20% state tax credit. Put a Georgia logo on the credits, and a studio can add another 10% tax credit for an overall 30% state tax credit. Companies not based in Georgia — as in almost every major film studio — can sell those credits to local companies to immediately transform those credits into cash.

The formula appears to be working. Studios spent $67M on film production in the state in 2007. By last year, they had spent $2.7B on more than 300 productions in Georgia, including such films as "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "Logan Lucky," "Thank You For Your Service" and television shows such as "Ozark," "Stranger Things" and "The Walking Dead."

Georgia even outpaced California as home to the number of feature films shot, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

According to Gov. Nathan Deal, film and television production generated a $9.5B economic impact in the state in 2017 alone.

Mensch said without those state tax incentives, Georgia would wither as a filming locale.

“Without the tax incentives, the business will leave,” he said. "This is a manufacturing business. People will go where they can manufacture their product economically."

Atlanta-based movie and television mogul Tyler Perry at the Academy Awards in 2010.

Tyler Perry Studios' economic impact on the immediate community, straddling the cities of College Park and East Point, is a little more difficult to quantify. After all, many of the studio productions are transient — there only until the film wraps.

Mensch conceded that studios, by their very nature, are insular enterprises. Tyler Perry Studios is behind walls originally erected for the military base and is generally not open to the public. There is even a pre-established, no-fly zone over the campus that prevents many flights from traversing the studio's airspace, Mensch said.

That does have a couple of benefits — no pesky contrails getting into critical film shots. And, maybe even more critical, no snoopy paparazzi flying around to get pictures of celebrities.

The studio is also being used for more than just Tyler Perry productions. Household names that have used its facilities in recent months include AMC, BET, Marvel Studios, Universal Studios, Sony, Paramount, Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema.

A diner setpiece on the campus of Tyler Perry Studios

Since Perry took it over, the former military base also has undergone a significant facilities expansion in the millions of dollars, with the media mogul adding his own 10-mile internet fiber ring, new electric and gas infrastructure, 11 soundstages totaling more than 300K SF and another 150K SF of office, Mensch said.

Production does have a spillover effect into the immediate areas when it comes to retail and restaurants, Mensch said.

“I think, if you drove down Main Street in East Point, you'll see the spillover. It's harder now to find a parking spot to grab a bite to eat than it used to be,” he said. “What I see now is I see a lot of restaurants opening. I see these boutiques opening. There is a certain magic to [being] near a motion picture studio.”

Hear more from Mensch, along with Westside Stageworks/Mailing Avenue Stageworks Managing Partner Tyler Edgarton, Southeast Capital Partners CEO Jay Clark, Air Realty Managing Partner Rod Mullice and For Mac LRA Executive Director Brian Hooker at Bisnow's Neighborhood Series: Southside Atlanta 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 11, on the third floor of Virginia Crossings at 1007 Virginia Ave. in Hapeville.

CORRECTION, APRIL 6, 10:00 A.M. ETA previous version of this story misstated the overall Georgia tax credit for film production. The credit is 30% — 20% for productions of at least $500K and another 10% if the Georgia logo is used during the credits. The story has been updated.