Chick-fil-A Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy, a famous figure in the business world, was honored on Tuesday for his pivotal role in another arena: the state’s booming film industry.
The African American Film Critics Association saluted Cathy with the 2017 AAFCA Film Icon Award at a luncheon at the Swan Coach House, an event that included a video featuring tributes from some of Atlanta’s most prominent business, civic and political leaders.
“It’s important for us to recognize Dan today, not just because he’s invested in film and the arts, but because he’s invested in people,” said Chick-fil-A Vice President of Community Affairs Rodney Bullard, who is executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation.
A key investor in the Pinewood Studios facility in Fayette County, Cathy and his partners last year unveiled plans for Pinewood Forrest, a new $700 million mixed-use community on the studio’s doorstep, and he was on hand for the launch of the Georgia Film Academy’s on-site teaching soundstage.
“I’m having the time of my life thinking of things we can do to attract artists to our community,” said Cathy, noting plans for a graffiti artist-in-residence and a tattoo parlor.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Atlanta Falcons owner and Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, Former Home Depot Chairman and CEO Frank Blake and Coca-Cola Co. Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent all appeared in the video offering congratulations.
“Dan is a trusted and vital partner and I’ve truly learned a heck of a lot from him,” Kent said.
Young referred to Cathy’s work in the film world as a ministry, and Reed said that Cathy was becoming known not just for the restaurant chain his father founded but “equally as well for his commitment to the film industry. As the 59th mayor of the city of Atlanta, I cannot tell you how delighted I am.”
AAFCA President Gil Robertson ticked off a number of Marvel movies that have filmed at Pinewood, including “Captain America: Civil War,” “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” and “Spiderman.” Currently filming in Atlanta (at EUE/Screen Gems) is the Marvel project “Black Panther,” with Chadwick Boseman in the title role, Ryan Coogler directing and Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o in the cast. All are African American.
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“None of this would be possible without Mr. Cathy’s vision and leadership,” Robertson said. “These films have not only brought much-needed jobs to the area but have also served as an industry-wide blueprint on how diversity in front of and behind the camera benefits us all.”
Cathy was proud to note Pinewood’s connections to the Academy Award-winning movie “Moonlight,” honored as best picture on Sunday. Pinewood Atlanta Studios’ new president, Frank Patterson, was previously dean of Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins is a Florida State graduate who worked with several fellow Seminoles on the movie, including cinematographer James Laxton, producer Adele Romanski and actor André Holland.
“If we can look beyond the snafu, when they got the right envelope, we were able to honor ‘Moonlight,’” Cathy said.
In addition to his role in all that’s happening at Pinewood, Cathy is committed to investing in underserved communities, particularly those near the Falcons’ new stadium.
“We’re going to have to build a lot of bridges in Atlanta,” he said. “The digital age is accelerating the knowledge gap in communities. This gap is getting bigger. We’re going to have to take a more aggressive approach. Let’s work together.”