Fans cheered as celebrities arrived at the Soul Train Awards at Atlanta’s Fox Theater last week.
ATLANTA — Cynthia Bailey, arguably the most glamorous of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” shivered in a sleeveless red shift, microphone in hand.
It was oddly cold, but the intrepid model carried on. She had a job to do: interviewing the talent that swaggered down the red carpet for the Soul Train Awards.
All along the police barriers that closed down Peachtree Street, fans screamed and elbowed one another for a better view. Those lucky enough to have tickets slipped into the Fox Theater, all glittery and prepared to party.
This was celebrity black Atlanta at its best.
A few years ago, the city probably would not have been able to pull off such a show. But fueled by a generous entertainment tax credit, the migration of affluent African-Americans from the North and the surprising fact that even celebrities appreciate the lower cost of living here, this capital of the Deep South is emerging as an epicenter of the black glitterati.
“It’s so ripe with African-American flavor and talent,” said Stephen Hill, an executive vice president for Black Entertainment Television, which will show the awards Sunday night.
“Atlanta is home to our core audience,” he said. “I’m trying not to make it a racial thing, but Atlanta is our New York, our L.A.”
To be sure, Atlanta has long had a high concentration of well-connected, affluent blacks. But the Atlanta area is now home to such a critical mass of successful actors, rappers and entertainment executives that few would argue its position as the center of black culture. Tyler Perry and his movie and television empire are based here. Sean Combs has a house in a suburb north of the city. The musicians Cee Lo Green, Ludacris and members of OutKast call it home. So does the music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri.
Gladys Knight, an Atlanta native who was honored at the awards, which were taped Nov. 17, runs a chicken and waffle restaurant here. And it is not unusual to spot Usher at one of the city’s better restaurants.
“It seems like everything is happening here now,” said Dave Hollister, an R&B singer who spends a lot of time in Atlanta. “It feels like New York used to feel with a little more nicety.”
Atlanta’s A-list evolution was driven in part by the state’s 2008 Entertainment Industry Investment Act, which gives qualified productions a 20 percent tax break, said Warrington Hudlin, president of the Black Filmmaker Foundation, which is based in New York.
Producers who embed a Georgia promotional logo in the titles or credits can take another 10 percent off the tax bill. In the last fiscal year, $683.5 million worth of production — music videos, television shows and movies — was staged here.
“Atlanta is really becoming the black Hollywood,” Mr. Hudlin said. Because many black filmmakers are working on tighter budgets than white filmmakers, they need to save money and Georgia helps them do that, he said.
And producers of films and shows like the Soul Train Awards can find a variety of people to fill sets and seats. “This is one of our strengths, the diversity of people in Atlanta,” said Lee Thomas, director of the state’s Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office. “It’s something we have over, say, Canada.”
The growth has also been fed by a decade of migration of blacks from the North. Nearly a quarter of a million blacks moved to the greater Atlanta area from outside the South between 2005 and 2010, making it the metro area with the largest number of black residents after New York.
More than a third of the new migrant households made more than $50,000 a year. One of the newcomers is Jasmine Guy, the actress whose most famous role was Whitley Gilbert on the sitcom “A Different World.” She was raised in Atlanta but spent 30 years in New York and Los Angeles.
She moved back three years ago, largely because she finds Atlanta offers an easier, gentler life for her family.
“At first I thought, how am I going to work?” she said. “But I have not stopped working since.”
In addition to acting, she directs and teaches younger actors. Like others in Atlanta’s black elite, she likes the fact that she finds herself among the majority at art museums and sophisticated restaurants.
And an added bonus? Paparazzi activity is at a minimum, but stars still get to feel like stars.
“They get the love and attention here like they wouldn’t get in New York,” said Kelley Carter, a pop culture journalist who has worked her share of rope lines and writes for publications like Ebony and Jet. She recently moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles herself.
It also doesn’t hurt that real estate here costs much less than in New York or Los Angeles.
“You can stretch a dollar more here,” said Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played Theo in “The Cosby Show” and has been in Atlanta shooting a new sitcom, “Reed Between the Lines,” for BET.
“Atlanta affords you a different kind of vibe,” he said. “A little more warmth.”
But like several people interviewed, he’s not ready to say that Atlanta can best New York or Los Angeles.
Lance Gross is a star in the Tyler Perry constellation who spends part of his time in Atlanta. “A lot of people come through here,” he said, “but I can’t give it to Atlanta yet.”
Ms. Bailey, the “Housewives” star, still takes monthly trips to New York for what she calls a culture fix.
But she is investing in Atlanta, and recently opened the Bailey Agency — School of Fashion to help connect Atlanta’s most promising models with power players in the fashion world.
“Atlanta in two or three years is going to be perfect,” she said.
Maybe. The comedian Cedric the Entertainer, who hosted the Soul Train Awards, said Atlanta had always been a black mecca and continues to be one. He used to travel to the city when he was growing up in St. Louis. The city just keeps improving, he said. The talent pool gets bigger every day, which makes it easy to stage shows here.
“You can make some quick calls and say, ‘I had a fall-out. Let’s see if Ludacris can stop by,’ ” he said. “You have the real down-home love and you have a lot of transplants who give it a real sexy, young progressive energy.”
But, he said, Georgia will always be Georgia.
“It’s serious business down here but at the same time they’re still country,” he said. “I mean, sweet tea don’t go with everything.”