How the Marvel Universe Was Built on Chick-Fil-A
Fast food might not be considered health food, but it turns out Iron Man and the Hulk are powered by Chick-Fil-A. Let me explain…
Way back in 2009, television network Lifetime was looking to rent studio space for filming near Atlanta, Georgia. It just so happened that Dan Cathy, son of Chick-Fil-A mogul S. Truett Cathy, grew up outside of Atlanta. The billionaire had various investment ventures, including a then-empty airplane hangar. A mutual associate connected Cathy to the Lifetime producers and suddenly Drop Dead Diva had a production space.
Cathy attended a filming and was enthralled. A long time amatuer photographer and musician, the entrepreneur “has the soul of an artist”, according to business associate Frank Patterson, president and CEO of Trilith Studios, LLC. Production hosting felt like Cathy’s route to dipping his toes in the entertainment industry.
A mutual friend introduced Dan Cathy to Stephen Weizenecker, a sports and entertainment lawyer connected with British production studio Pinewood. Pinewood was looking to branch into the US production market. Through the Cathy family’s investment firm, River’s Rock LLC, Dan Cathy made a partnership happen. Pinewood Atlanta was born.
Prime Georgia Timing
It was lucky timing for the partnership. Just a year earlier the state of Georgia upped tax incentives for filmmakers, peaking Hollywood’s interests in the area and increasing Georgia’s film industry capital by over $2.6 billion over the next decade. According to Forbes magazine, citing a 2020 study by FilmLA,
Georgia beat out California as the production home for big-budget blockbusters.”
The Pinewood/River’s Rock partnership purchased farmland (with one cow and a barn included) in Fayetteville, Georgia for $10 million. They invested $40 million into state-of-the-art soundstanges, administrative buildings, warehouses and workshops. The facility was far more advanced than typical production studios, with all the bells and whistles – hi-end sound equipment, larger special effects pads, super charged ventilation systems.
Many amenities upgrades typically constrained in an urban L.A. environment. It was a bright and shiny playground for the Hollywood elite – and they noticed.
Rebranded as Trilith in 2020 after Pinewood sold their stakes in the venture, the production partnership has grown to now the second largest studio complex in North America, second only to the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, CA.
The Trilith development spread beyond movie production and launched an entire all-inclusive residential community, literally, right next door.
The walkable neighborhood includes restaurants, schools, gyms, parks and any other typical small town amenity. But these aren’t mass produced condos. Homes are customized and thoughtfully designed to create a sustainable and carefree community. There’s weekend food trucks and communal cookouts as well as underground geothermal energy panels and fully-incorporated smart homes. The eclectic vibe is one of a modernized European village with communal yards, gardens, and balconies adjacent to each other.
Hollywood took note over the last few years. Actors, writers and production executives have moved into the neighborhood, forming a self-contained community of industry natives who enjoy the extreme anti-L.A. atmosphere.
MCI stuntwoman Shauna Galligan told Forbes she “can’t imagine living back in L.A.”. The 38-year old can drop her child off at school and literally cross the highway to report to work. She says her friends back in California are jealous and considering the drastic lifestyle change. With over 200 custom cottage homes sold, the demand for Trilith homes is still increasing.
The Trilith website states,
This is the future of filmmaking and content producing where some of the world’s best talent live and work side by side.”
It’s certainly an intriguing model in an otherwise L.A.-centric industry.
So where do Iron-Man and the Hulk come in? On the studios credits, of course. From the Marvel Universe, that credit list includes two Avengers movies, both Ant-Man movies, Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, and Spiderman: Homecoming. Did we mention WandaVision and Loki? Yep, those too. It’s a pretty impressive list for what used to be one cow and a barn.
There you have it, my friends. S. Truett Cathy’s chicken empire bought an airplane hangar, launched an investment firm, partnered with the British, and turned a chunk of rural farmland into a multi-billion dollar location where superheroes shop for groceries and take their kids to school.
And THAT is how Chick-Fil-A brought heroes to life and helped save the world.