Filmmaker and entrepreneur Tyler Perry told Gayle King on CBS This Morning this week that his eponymous film studio in Atlanta will soon provide a safe haven for homeless women, displaced LGBTQ youth, and sex trafficking victims.
Perry is the first African American man to own a major movie studio, a 330-acre property that was once a Confederate Army base. But he is most excited about the aspect of helping those in need. “You know, the studio’s gonna be what it is,” Perry said.
“I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about next is pulling this next phase off, is building a compound for trafficked women, girls, homeless women, LGBTQ youth who are put out and displaced … somewhere on these 330 acres, where they’re trained in the business and they become self-sufficient.”
“They live in nice apartments. There’s day care. There’s all of these wonderful things that allows them to reenter society. And then pay it forward again,” Perry continued. “So that’s what I hope to do soon.”
“Think about the poetic justice in that,” Perry said. “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.”
The major motion picture studio includes 40 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, 12 purpose-built sound stages named after African-American luminaries such as Oprah Winfrey, Diahann Carroll, and Harry Belafonte, 200 acres of green space, and a diverse backlot.
Actors, directors, musical artists, filmmakers and politicians such as Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Stacey Abrams, Ava DuVernay, Viola Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, Tiffany Haddish, Whoopi Goldberg, Reginald Hudlin and Halle Berry showed up to support filmmaker and entrepreneur Tyler Perry as he formally opened his Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
Tyler Perry Studios marks the first time that an African-American person has owned and operated a major film studio anywhere in the U.S.
Perry also reportedly named his twelve sound stages after living and late legends such as Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Sydney Poitier, Della Reese, Spike Lee, Harry Belafonte, Cicely Tyson, Whoopi Goldberg, Diahann Carroll and Will Smith.
“Why did it take so long?” Goldberg wondered in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
Davis concurred by saying, “Tonight is history. Tonight is not just entertainment and flamboyancy, it’s not just an excuse to get dressed up. It’s an excuse to celebrate a historic moment, which is a black artist taking control of their artistic life and the vision that God has for their life,” she said. “What’s happened with us historically is we’re waiting for people to get us. We’re waiting for people to throw us a crumb. That’s not what Tyler Perry has done. I want to be able to look back on this and say ‘I was there.'”
Winfrey added of Perry: “Tyler is my little big brother. To see him rise to this moment that I know he’s dreamed about, planned, defined, clarify for himself, it’s just a fulfillment of a dream. It’s wonderful to see.”
DuVernay, among others, touchingly reported on the momentous occasion on her Instagram and 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. All on a former Confederate Army base. A stunning achievement that will echo through the generations. https://t.co/XCeXE09y77
Actor Denzel Washington headlined a rainy ceremony Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to mark the start of renovations at playwright August Wilson’s childhood home.
Washington led a $5 million fundraising effort to restore what is now called the August Wilson House. Renovations are expected to be completed in 2020, when the house is set to become a center for art and culture in the neighborhood.
“It is a privilege and an honor and a responsibility … and a joy to play a small part in keeping him alive,” Washington told an audience that huddled under umbrellas in the yard of the house at 1727 Bedford Ave.
Paul Ellis, Wilson’s nephew, led an effort to restore the nearly 200-year-old building to its 1950s-era look, matching how it appeared when Wilson lived there with his mother and five siblings. Wilson, who died in 2005, last visited the house in 1999.
When renovations are complete, the building — which is now on the National Register of Historic Places — will house displays and artifacts from Wilson’s life and plays. Wilson said he wanted the building to be “useful,” not only a museum, Ellis said. It will incorporate artist studios and will continue to host plays in its yard.
Duquesne University has launched a program to award fellowships to emerging writers who will live and study at Duquesne and spend time working at the House, Duquesne President Ken Gormley said.
Washington, who starred in a 2016 film production of Wilson’s play “Fences,” called Wilson one of the world’s great playwrights and talked about a familiar feeling in visiting the Hill District house. “I love August Wilson,” Washington said. “He touches my soul, our souls, in a way that no one else I know has. This is just like coming home.”
He identified some of the project’s big-name donors, noting Oprah Winfrey and actor Tyler Perry each gave $1 million and writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, director Spike Lee and actor Samuel L. Jackson all contributed.
Washington is producing nine more of Wilson’s plays — the rest of the 10 plays in the playwright’s Century Cycle.
Duquesne University has already selected its first fellow, former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey. Trethewey read her poem “Pilgrimage” at the ceremony, which included short performances of Wilson’s work by student Jamaica Johnson and Pittsburgh actor Wali Jamal.
Today was Aretha Franklin‘s homegoing service at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, MI. Some may have questioned why the Queen of Soul’s ceremony wasn’t held at her father C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church (she did hold her final viewing there) – perhaps New Bethel just isn’t a big enough space for those attending her ultimate show. Because once again, the Queen sold out the house.
In a send-off equal parts grand and personal, an all-star lineup of speakers and singers included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, professor Michael Eric Dyson, Cicely Tyson, Tyler Perry, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Ariana Grande, Gladys Knight, Shirley Caesar, mayors, senators, members of congress, family and loved ones.
Robinson, the Motown great, remembered first hearing Franklin play piano when he was just 8 and remained close to her for the rest of her life, talking for hours at a time. “You’re so special,” he said, before crooning a few lines from his song “Really Gonna Miss You,” with the line “really gonna be different without you.”
Bill Clinton described himself as an Aretha Franklin “groupie” whom he had loved since college days. He traced her life’s journey, praising her as someone who “lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears.” He remembered attending her last public performance, at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation benefit in November in New York. She looked “desperately ill” but managed to greet him by standing and saying, “How you doin,’ baby?”
Clinton ended by noting that her career spanned from vinyl records to cellphones. He held the microphone near his iPhone and played a snippet of Franklin’s classic “Think,” the audience clapping along. “It’s the key to freedom!” Clinton said.
Rev. Sharpton received loud cheers when he criticized Donald Trump for saying that the singer “worked for” him as he responded to her death. “She performed for you,” Sharpton said of Franklin, who had sung at Trump-owned venues. “She worked for us.” Dyson took it even further by saying, “She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right!”
Many noted her longtime commitment to civil rights and lasting concern for black people. Her friend Greg Mathis, the award-winning reality show host and retired Michigan judge, recalled his last conversation with her. They talked about the tainted water supply in Flint. “You go up there and sock it to ’em,” she urged Mathis.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced during the service that the city, come Tuesday, would rename the riverfront amphitheater Chene Park to “Aretha Franklin Park” to loud applause. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reminded those in attendance that Aretha Franklin’s voice is designated as a natural resource of the state in the 1980s.
Franklin died Aug. 16 at age 76. Her body arrived early in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse. She wore a shimmering gold dress, with sequined heels — the fourth outfit Franklin was clothed in during a week of events leading up to her funeral.
The casket was carried to the church that also took Franklin’s father, the renowned minister C.L. Franklin, to his and Parks’ final resting place at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will join them. Pink Cadillacs filled the street outside the church, a reference to a Franklin hit from the 1980s, “Freeway of Love.”
Program covers showed a young Franklin, with a slight smile and sunglasses perched on her nose, and the caption “A Celebration Fit For The Queen.” Large bouquets of pink, lavender, yellow and white flowers flanked her casket.
Family members, among them granddaughter Victorie Franklin and niece Cristal Franklin, spoke with awe and affection as they remembered a world-famous performer who also loved gossip and kept pictures of loved ones on her piano.
Grandson Jordan directed his remarks directly to Franklin, frequently stopping to fight back tears. “I’m sad today, because I’m losing my friend. But I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. You showed the world God’s love, and there’s nothing more honorable.”
To see a large part of the almost eight-hour service, click below:
With the always present caveat that “rank doesn’t matter,” it turns out that Hidden Figures was the top movie of the weekend, not Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As you probably know, the weekend box office that everyone reports on Sunday is comprised of estimates and when the rankings are close the order can sometimes shift when the final numbers drop. So yeah, Hidden Figures earned a terrific $22.8 million, about $1m more than estimated, which is a sign that the film is building on its buzz and word-of-mouth.
Meanwhile, Rogue One had to settle for a $22m fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total to $477.3m. The story though, isn’t necessarily that Hidden Figures, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Kevin Costner, bested the fourth weekend of Star Wars (or the third weekend of Sing) in its wide release debut. No, it’s that Hidden Figures, a historical drama about female African-American NASA mathematicians whose skills were essential to putting Americans into space, earned $22.8 million on its opening weekend, bringing the domestic total for the $25m Fox 2000/Chermin release to $24.7m.
At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, the triumph of said Allison Schroeder/Ted Melfi-written studio programmer, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, is a huge win for the notion that movies about women, women of color no less, can be not just critically acclaimed and award-worthy but also multiplex-friendly box office hits. This shouldn’t be a surprise. We should know this by now. The Help earned $169 million domestic in 2011, more than X-Men: First Class ($146m), and earned about as much worldwide ($216m) as the 3D/$200m+ Green Lantern ($219m).
Back in 1995, Waiting to Exhale made about as much domestically ($67.4m) as Bad Boys, Outbreak and Heat. The entire Tyler Perry media empire is built on audiences (black women and otherwise) going to movie theaters to see mainstream melodramas about African-American women. Hell, we forget about it now, but Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple earned $94.1 million domestic in 1985 ($216m in 2017 dollars). That doesn’t mean every Baggage Claim is going to break out, but if you treat movies like Hidden Figures like an event, the audience will show up.
It was a battle of the sequels at the multiplexes this weekend, as “Boo! A Madea Halloween” narrowly edged out “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” to claim first place at the domestic box office.
The latest film in the long-running Madea series racked up $27.6 million. Comedian Chris Rock may be entitled to a percentage of the gross. Creator Tyler Perry was inspired to take his pistol-packing grandma trick-or-treating after Rock’s comedian character in 2014’s “Top Five” joked that his latest movie, a passion project about a slave revolt, was going head-to-head at the box office with “Boo! A Madea Halloween.” What was once intended as satire eventually became a seasonally appropriate reality.
“This isn’t the end of the series, it’s just the beginning,” said Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, who noted that Perry also scored with 2013’s “A Madea Christmas.” “There are so many holidays left. There’s Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, and he hasn’t even done a Thanksgiving one yet.”
Don’t look for “Boo!” to end up in the Oscar race or on many reviewers’ “ten best” lists, but the Halloween comedy is a hit for distributor Lionsgate and reaffirms Perry’s star power. Despite being routinely derided by critics, the film series has an extremely loyal fan base. Collectively they’ve earned nearly $380 million. The latest Madea cost $20 million to make, and attracted a more diverse crowd. Typically the films have an audience that’s between 80% and 90% African-American, but this installment’s crowd was only 60% African-American, with the rest of ticket buyers made up largely of Caucasians and Hispanic movie-goers.
“The film crossed over and it expanded the audience,” said David Spitz, co-president of domestic distribution at Lionsgate. “Madea is such a beloved character and the timing helped. There are not many comedies in the marketplace right now and Halloween is right around the corner.”
Rolling out interviewed Jerald Gary, the new owner of the New Regal Theater in Chicago. The 30-year-old talked about his memories of the Regal and how he came to acquire this historic building on the South Side.
Who is Jerald Gary?
I am a private equity investor. I bought the Regal Theater in 2014 toprovideaccess to the performing arts for the community. I created the Chicago Regal Foundation to use the theater as a cultural asset that the community can leverage through various arts nonprofits. My day to day is figuring out how to render capital of the community more active and productive.
What is some history that you’ve heard about the Regal?
When I was growing up, the Regal was really in its prime. It reopened in 1987. It revived in 85′. I think it took them two years to do renovation, reopened it in 1987, and got it a landmark right there in ’92. Matter of fact, Mayor Harold Washington facilitated some money because doing the political thing for office in return was bringing dollars into the community. I got a picture of Ed Gardner and Harold Washington right there in the lobby. Harold was giving Ed a million-dollar check for the restoration. I saw a flyer the other day, it was Tupac and Biggie’s first time in Chicago on the Regal Theater stage. They were introducing a new [act], 17-year-old Kanye West, at the bottom of the flyer. Crucial Conflict was at the show, Da Brat was at the show, Common was at the show and a couple of other artists, at one show. That was the type of stuff that was going on. I [saw] Common and told him I was about to buy the Regal Theater and he stated how he thought Beyoncé and Jay were going to buy it. There was no Regal Theater from the mid ’70s until Avalon Theater was restored and they did the New Regal in 1987.
Who were some of the people that got their start with plays here?
Tyler Perry got his start at the Regal Theater. I was too young to go to his stuff but I remember his bus being in the parking lot. He was sleeping in his bus. It was a lot of church plays here.
Have you thought about changing the name from the New Regal Theater?
Yes, so we are going to change the name to Avalon Regal Theater because the building we’re in is the Avalon, which was from 1927 up until the mid ’70s. It was the Operation Regal Theater in Bronzeville so at the time so we had a lot of Irish German immigrants who lived here who came here for shows. Somebody came to me and said ” Wait right here.” The person came back and gave me a flyer from 1929 of a silent movie/music dance with the orchestra pit. They would do that type of stuff here until like the ’60s. It was mostly a movie house before they had multiplexes, this was the spot to come and see movies. A lot of white people come to me and say they use to come to Avalon and use to watch cartoons on Saturday. That’s the heritage as well, we want to preserve. The whole legacy of the Avalon Regal Theater (ART) is what we’re trying to get trending, the rich heritage of the South Side. The concept we have is we really feel this could be a Beale Street like in Memphis, [Tennessee]. They got like 20 or 30 music joints like on one strip, [along with] restaurants and bars. You can’t just have a venue and people can’t go get dinner before the show, a cocktail after the show. What you gonna get? Are you going to get robbed after the show? That’s what’s going to happen here now. Why can’t we have this [be] Beale Street? I feel like the South Side is like the Africa of the city. I think we have the opportunity to do crazy stuff like they did in Dubai. It’s cheap to do. We bought the Regal for $100,000. When I say “we” I mean the companies I chair. We bought it from the FDIC. It took us about nine months to negotiate because it’s a landmark. We had to get a blessing from a commissioner. We got about $7 million dollars worth of work to do. Three million dollars of that is on the facade. We probably are going to do a Kickstarter campaign.
When do you plan on opening?
We hope to be running by 2017.
How can people get more information about the Regal?
They can go towww.regaltheater.org and it has a lot of information about the project and the Regal itself.
Since the OWN cable network debuted in 2011, its popularity has skyrocketed among African-American women, particularly in the last two years.
At a time when many cable networks have been experiencing declines in their viewership, OWN’s average prime-time viewership has grown roughly 30%, climbing to 537,000 in the past two years, as many network have suffered significant declines. According to The Wall Street Journal, the network’s new lineup has resonated strongly with women and black audiences.
Since signing on writer-producer Tyler Perry in 2012, who has four shows on the network now, and adding recent shows like Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” and the megachurch drama “Greenleaf,” OWN has been able to grow its viewership and visibility.
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network closed out 2015 as its most-watched year in the network’s history, achieving its fourth consecutive year of double-digit prime growth in total viewers (up +13% with 487,000 total viewers).
2015 was also the network’s best year ever and fourth year of growth in the key 25-54 demographic for women (W25-54, up +10% vs. 2014). OWN’s W25-54 prime average ranked #25 among ad-supported cable networks, up +4 spots vs. 2014.
OWN is the fastest-growing top 25 ad-supported cable network in prime among W25-54 and is one of only two ad-supported cable networks to have achieved double-digit prime growth in total viewers in each of the past four years. Additionally, OWN was the #2 cable network in prime among African-American women.
For 2015, OWN was the #1 cable network for women and the #1 network on all of TV among African-American women and total viewers on Tuesday nights. Popular Tuesday night series “The Haves and the Have Nots” and “If Loving You is Wrong,” from Tyler Perry, both ranked among the top seven original scripted series on ad-supported cable for W25-54 and were primetime’s top two original cable series among African-American women.
Both series ranked among Tuesday night’s top three original cable series for W25-54 and W18+ and were Tuesday night’s top two original series on all of TV among African-American women and total viewers.
OWN was Saturday night’s #2 network on all of TV among African-American women. Saturdays on OWN yielded the top nine original series on ad-supported cable (non-sports) among all African-American women.
These popular series included: “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” “Legends: OWN at the Apollo,” “Livin’ Lozada,” “Raising Whitley,” “Flex & Shanice,” “2 Fat 2 Fly,” “Deion’s Family Playbook” and “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”
Additionally, on Friday nights, OWN was the #2 cable network among African-American women. Comedy series “For Better or Worse” and “Love Thy Neighbor,” both from Tyler Perry, ranked among Friday night’s top three original cable series for African-American women.
Legendary actress Cicely Tyson was recognized Tuesday night for her contribution to the performing arts at the2015 Kennedy Center Honors.
Tyson, 91, has had a dynamic career—spanning over 60 years, earning her Academy and SAG award nominations and wins from the Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Awards.
On hand to help celebrate her accomplishments were actors Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Tyler Perry during the 38th annual broadcast.
“Cicely Tyson chose to empower us when we didn’t even know it was possible for us to be empowered,” Perry began his introduction. “For six decades, she has been dilligent in her pursuit to better us all.”
Singer CeCe Winans joined in on the tribute by singing Tyson’s favorite gospel song, “Blessed Assurance.”