Tyler Perry Puts $800M Studio Expansion on Hold After Seeing OpenAI’s Sora: “Jobs Are Going to Be Lost”

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Over the past four years, Tyler Perry had been planning an $800 million expansion of his studio in Atlanta, which would have added 12 soundstages to the 330-acre property. Now, however, those ambitions are on hold — thanks to the rapid developments he’s seeing in the realm of artificial intelligence, including OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora, which debuted Feb. 15 and stunned observers with its cinematic video outputs.

“Being told that it can do all of these things is one thing, but actually seeing the capabilities, it was mind-blowing,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, noting that his productions might not have to travel to locations or build sets with the assistance of the technology.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

As a business owner, Perry sees the opportunity in these developments, but as an employer, fellow actor and filmmaker, he also wants to raise the alarm. In an interview between shoots Thursday, Perry explained his concerns about the technology’s impact on labor and why he wants the industry to come together to tackle AI: “There’s got to be some sort of regulations in order to protect us. If not, I just don’t see how we survive.”

After seeing Sora, what are your current feelings about how fast AI technology is moving and how it might affect entertainment in the near term?

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. 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.

What in particular was shocking to you about its capabilities?

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.

It makes me worry so much about all of the people in the business. Because as 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.

Are you currently implementing AI in any of your productions and/or do you plan to do so in the near future?

I just used AI in two films that are going to be announced soon. That kept me out of makeup for hours. In post and on set, I was able to use this AI technology to avoid ever having to sit through hours of aging makeup.

How are you thinking about approaching the threat that AI poses to certain job categories at your studio and on your productions?

Everything right now is so up in the air. It’s so malleable. The technology’s moving so quickly. 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. But me, just like every other studio in town, we’re all trying to figure it all out. I think we’re all trying to find the answers as we go, and it’s changing every day — and it’s not just our industry, but it’s every industry that AI will be affecting, from accountants to architects. If you look at it across the world, how it’s changing so quickly, I’m hoping that there’s a whole government approach to help everyone be able to sustain.

How would you like the entertainment industry as a whole to confront this rapidly developing technology?

I absolutely think that it has to be an all hands on [deck], whole industry approach. It can’t be one union fighting every contract every two or three years. I think that it has to be everybody, all involved in how do we protect the future of our industry because it is changing rapidly, right before our eyes. I think of all of the construction workers and contractors who are not going to be employed because I’m not doing this next phase of the studio because there is no need to do it.

What’s your message for the industry at this point, as we’re watching this unfold?

I know each union is individual, and I know that unions have stood with each other in times of negotiation, but I think that this is a time for galvanizing one voice in motion to help save, protect the individuals of our industry.

As a studio owner, are you feeling any pressure to use AI at this point?

No. I’m absolutely not feeling any pressure to use it, but I’m definitely looking at the advantages and what it brings to the table. However, I can focus on the bottom line of my studio continuing to do extremely well and avoid the conversation, or we can jump in and have the conversation head-on to make sure that we’re protecting all the people that are coming up. So I’ve got two sides here to this thing. For me, I’m looking at my business and the bottom line, but I’m also very concerned about all the people that I have trained and bought up in this industry. I’m concerned about what will happen to them.

How do you think this convergence of the rapid development of AI and the current contraction in the industry is going to play out?

I think it’s going to be a major game-changer, because if you could spend a fraction of the cost to do a pilot that would’ve cost $15 [million], $20 million or even $35 million if you’re looking at HBO, of course the bottom line of those companies would be to go the route of lesser costs. So I am very, very concerned that in the near future, a lot of jobs are going to be lost. I really, really feel that very strongly.

Who needs to act? You’re speaking up about this, but who else should be speaking up and working on this?

I just hope that as people are embracing this technology and as companies are moving to reduce costs and save the bottom line, 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.

Best of The Hollywood Reporter