Tyler Perry halts $800 million studio expansion after 'mind-blowing' AI demonstration

Hollywood heavyweight Tyler Perry has announced that he's putting his Atlanta studio's $800 million expansion on hold indefinitely because of "mind-blowing" developments in artificial technologies, including OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora.

Perry's announcement comes after OpenAI debuted the software on Feb. 15, and before the release of Perry's recent film on Netflix, "Mea Culpa."

Sora is capable of generating minute-long videos "while maintaining visual quality and adherence to the user's prompt," OpenAI said on its website.

"We’re teaching AI to understand and simulate the physical world in motion, with the goal of training models that help people solve problems that require real-world interaction," the San Francisco-headquartered AI company said.

Perry began planning the expansion four years ago, which would add 12 soundstages to the 330-acre property, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Being told that it can do all of these things is one thing, but actually seeing the capabilities, it was mind-blowing,” Perry told the outlet during an interview on Feb. 22.

Thanks to Sora, Perry noted how his productions may no longer have to travel to locations or build sets, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Tyler Perry attends the "Mea Culpa" premiere at The Paris Theatre in New York City on Feb. 15, 2024.
Tyler Perry attends the "Mea Culpa" premiere at The Paris Theatre in New York City on Feb. 15, 2024.

'It's shocking to me,' Tyler Perry says about Sora

Perry told The Hollywood Reporter that he's been "watching AI very closely" and last years heard murmurs about Sora possibly coming. It wasn't until he saw OpenAI's demonstrations that he realized the technology's potential.

"It’s shocking to me," he told the outlet.

When asked what shocked him, Perry responded: "I don’t have to put a set on my lot. I can sit in an office and do this with a computer."

Perry admitted in the interview that he's used AI in two unannounced films to avoid sitting in the makeup chair for long periods of time.

"That kept me out of makeup for hours," Perry said. "In post and on set, I was able to use this AI technology to avoid ever having to sit through hours of aging makeup."

Tyler Perry concerned about AI's impact on film industry

Although AI offers many advantages, Perry told The Hollywood Reporter that it also makes him worry for everyone in the film business.

"I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I’m thinking this will touch every corner of our industry," he said.

During the interview, Perry also called AI's use in Hollywood "up in the air" and "malleable" due to how quickly the technology is evolving.

"I feel like everybody in the industry is running a hundred miles an hour to try and catch up, to try and put in guardrails and to try and put in safety belts to keep livelihoods afloat," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "We’re all trying to figure it all out."

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks shared a similar sentiment in May while on "The Adam Buxton" podcast, when he said that "anybody can now recreate themselves at any age they are by way of AI or deep fake technology."

"I could be hit by a bus tomorrow and that’s it, but my performances can go on and on and on," Hanks said.

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Industry-wide unioziation could protect 'a lot of jobs,' Tyler Perry says

Despite using AI, Perry told The Hollywood Reporter that he feels no pressure to continue doing so because his studio is "doing extremely well."

While Perry is able to avoid the conversation due to AI not affecting his bottom line, he said discussing the technology's use in films could help prepare all the people he's trained and brought up in the industry.

"I’m concerned about what will happen to them," he said

One of the main drivers for studios to use AI is limiting costs, which is why Perry said that "a lot of jobs are going to be lost" in the near future. Perry's solution is for all the film unions to stand together during contract negotiations, according to The Hollywood Reporter

"I think that this is a time for galvanizing one voice in motion to help save, protect the individuals of our industry," Perry said.

Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey attend the World Premiere of Warner Bros.' "The Color Purple" at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Dec. 6, 2023 in Los Angeles.
Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey attend the World Premiere of Warner Bros.' "The Color Purple" at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Dec. 6, 2023 in Los Angeles.

Where is Tyler Perry Studios?

Tyler Perry Studios sits on the historic grounds of the former Fort McPherson army base "in the heart of Atlanta," according to the studio's website.

Perry bought the major motion picture studio in 2015 for $30 million and now it's "one of the largest production facilities in the country," the website says. On the property there are 40, 12 sound stages, 200 acres of greenspace and a backlot.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tyler Perry puts $800M studio expansion on hold after AI demonstration