ATLANTA (CN) - Filmmaker Tyler Perry need not face a competitor's legal claims over plans to develop a movie studio in a former military base - yet, a federal judge ruled.
The U.S. Army closed Fort McPherson in 2011. The military base, southeast of Atlanta, had been built in 1885.
The McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, representing communities affected by the base closure, received Department of Defense approval to redevelop the property.
Atlanta-based Ubiquitous Entertainment Studios, one of the buyers interested in parts of Fort McPherson, claimed its CEO met with the authority's chairman as early as December 2011 to discuss its vision for a movie studio and entertainment complex at the site.
The company said the authority refused to negotiate a deal this year because it did not yet have title to the property.
Though the group promised to hold an open bidding process once it received the title, in June 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city and the authority "had entered into 'robust' talks to conclude the purchase of Ft. McPherson by movie-maker Tyler Perry by the end of July 2014," according to U.S. District Judge Richard Story's Tuesday ruling.
Ubiquitous Entertainment sued Perry, the authority and the federal government in July, alleging they had violated its due process rights by excluding it from the bidding.
It also brought fraud and misrepresentation claims against the authority based on its alleged failure to notify interested buyers that it was open for negotiations. Additionally, Perry faced a conversion claim, accusing him of taking Ubiquitous Entertainment's construction plans for a movie studio at the Ft. McPherson site.
Story ruled Tuesday that the court lacked jurisdiction over the claims, which are not ripe for review.
Since the Army still owns Ft. McPherson, the group cannot close a deal with Perry or any other party, the 6-page ruling states.
It is unclear when the Department of Defense will approve final transfer of the property to the authority, according to the order.
Story did not rule on the merits of the case, saying Ubiquitous Entertainment may sue again when the deal happens, if it still believes its rights have been violated. However, "whether and when MILRA and Tyler Perry will close a deal is speculative at this point," the judge noted.
Ubiquitous Entertainment said in a statement: "After carefully reviewing the court's order, we believe it in no way speaks to the merits of our case - only the timing of it. We still contend that violations have taken place in the way in which this process has been handled to unfairly benefit Mr. Perry and bar all others from open, honest and transparent negotiations."
Mayor Reed announced in June that Perry would buy more than 300 acres of Fort McPherson for just over $30 million to build up to 16 movie studios.
The federal government sold the 488-acre fort for $33 million to the redevelopment authority.
Perry said in August: "I am thrilled to have my vision for Tyler Perry Studios come to life in South Atlanta. I believe Atlanta provides a wide array of talent. ... I look forward to not only expanding Tyler Perry Studios and its capabilities, but also to witness firsthand the economic revitalization of the communities and neighborhoods surrounding the property."
Perry has written, directed, produced and starred in stage plays, television shows and films. He is best known for his Gospel-genre movies featuring Madea, a tough old lady Perry plays in drag.
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