How new AI Sora scared Tyler Perry and made him halt his staggering $800M studio plans

Abu Mubarik February 26, 2024
Tyler Perry. Photo via @tylerperry on Instagram

In 2019, Tyler Perry threw a star-studded party to commemorate the opening of his film studio in Atlanta. The event showcased the best of black Hollywood guests, including Perry’s mentor and friend Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Taraji P. Henson, Jill Scott, Whoopi Goldberg, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Cecily Tyson, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The facility was built on land that used to be a Confederate army base where whites fought to keep blacks enslaved in Atlanta. Perry acquired the 330-acre land at Fort McPherson for the studio in 2015. At the time, it was reported that it had 12 fully furnished sound stages for movie productions. Other structures include a replica of the White House, a diner, a mobile home park and a prison yard.

In the final week of 2022, the business mogul acquired an additional 37 acres of land at the cost of $8.4 million to expand his film studio. He was due to add 12 sound stages as part of an $800 million expansion of his studio. However, he said he is putting it on hold after becoming concerned over new AI technology.

He specifically put the expansion on hold following the release of OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora, which launched in a limited way this month and has not yet opened to the public. His concern was grounded in the fact that a lot of jobs would be lost in the film industry because of artificial intelligence.

“I have been watching AI very closely and watching the advancements very closely. I was in the middle of, and have been planning for the last four years, about an $800 million expansion at the studio, which would’ve increased the backlot a tremendous size — we were adding 12 more soundstages,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

“All of that is currently and indefinitely on hold because of Sora and what I’m seeing. I had gotten word over the last year or so that this was coming, but I had no idea until I saw recently the demonstrations of what it’s able to do. It’s shocking to me.”

According to him, Sora has the potential to make traveling to locations obsolete and building sets outdated.

“I no longer would have to travel to locations. If I wanted to be in the snow in Colorado, it’s text. If I wanted to write a scene on the moon, it’s text, and this AI can generate it like nothing. If I wanted to have two people in the living room in the mountains, I don’t have to build a set in the mountains, I don’t have to put a set on my lot. I can sit in an office and do this with a computer, which is shocking to me,” he said, adding that he is very concerned because it could lead to job losses for editors, actors, sound specialists and transporters.

Perry said he hopes that as people and companies are embracing AI, “that there’ll be some sort of thought and some sort of compassion for humanity and the people that have worked in this industry and built careers and lives, that there’s some sort of thought for them.”

“And I think the only way to move forward in this is to galvanize it as one voice, not only in Hollywood and in this industry, but also in Congress,” the filmmaker stressed.

Perry began his career as a playwright, actor and director but it hadn’t always been easy for him. At a point, he had to sleep in his car, and now he owns a multifaceted studio, a great feat worthy of admiration.

In his 2019 BET Awards acceptance speech, he said, “When I built my studio, [it was in the] poorest Black neighborhood in Atlanta so the kids can see that a Black man did that, and they can too.”

Knowing how hard it was and still is for black actors to book auditions and get roles, he added, “What it means is that I get an opportunity to pass it on to people. I get to share it. I get to inspire people and encourage them. That is what it’s all about.”

He also reiterated that it was a “God-given” opportunity to open his own studios, THWR reported. As part of moves to honor black people who have made notable strides in Hollywood, Perry named the sound studios after the following Legends of Black Hollywood; Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belefonte, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Will Smith. Others include Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Diahann Carroll.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 26, 2024

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