Tyler Perry is the family that pays.
On Tuesday, Forbes announced that it estimates the Hollywood mogul’s net worth is $1 billion and stated that he was on a “clear path to future membership in The Forbes 400.” The finance site breaks down his cash and investments ($300 million), stake in BET+ ($60 million), his content library ($320 million), homes and toys ($40 million), and his 330-acre studio ($280 million).
At this point, we’ve all read and heard Perry’s “rags to riches” story. In his earlier days, he produced a play called I Know I’ve Been Changed, about child-abuse survivors; during a period of three months, he lived out of his car (on and off) while he pushed on to garner attention for the project.
Now, he’s what Forbes calls “Hollywood’s newest billionaire.”
“I love when people say you come from ‘humble beginnings,’ ” Perry said. “[It] means you were poor as hell.”
Forbes breaks down just how he got here:
The 51-year-old entertainer owns the entirety of his creative output, including more than 1,200 episodes of television, 22 feature films and at least two dozen stage plays, as well as a 330-acre studio lot at the edge of Atlanta’s southern limits. He used that control to leverage a deal with ViacomCBS that pays him $150 million a year for new content and gives him an equity stake in BET+, the streaming service it debuted last September. Forbes estimates Perry has earned more than $1.4 billion in pretax income since 2005, which he used to buy homes in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as well as two planes.
Knowing his audience intimately, Perry proposed to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer that he would invest half of the money in his films and collect half of the profits so that he can maintain control of the content. In return, Lionsgate could deduct all marketing costs from his cut as well as another 12.5 percent of distribution costs. Knowing the marketing budget wouldn’t be much (his fanbase is loyal, honey!), Perry eventually owned everything outright.
“Ownership,” he continues, “changes everything.”
Specifically, Perry’s brand was about taking ownership over content that spoke to an oft-ignored demographic. His earlier stage plays dominated the chitlin’ circuit and as he said most recently about his work when he portrayed himself in an episode of #BlackAF, “I’m telling the stories that I come from and that’s why they’re winning, because people are recognizing themselves in these stories.”
Additionally, it should be noted that Perry’s propensity to cut corners and produce things quickly (thus, cheaply) has contributed to this type of financial success. During the aforementioned play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, Perry took on multiple duties himself including set design, lighting, creating programs and selling intermission snacks. Perry has definitely taken a bit of that philosophy forward with his current productions (this summer, he said he and his crew were shooting an “enormous amount of pages in a day”), even though he can afford not to.
Plus, he’s recently been a pioneering example of how to film during the pandemic, as more production companies are taking precautions with an expedited production schedule and limited crew.
Perry is a writer who prefers to write his own television scripts and has proclaimed he doesn’t use a writers’ room, so he isn’t someone I’d advise on following if you want to become a TV writer. I know I’ve roasted his projects—endlessly (hell, he could have an entire sub-category in my Negro Noir series). But, it can certainly be argued that if your goal is to become a wealthy person in film who owns and controls the majority of their content, Perry could teach that masterclass.