Netflix’s New ‘Shaft’ Reboot Deal Could Set a New Precedent for Distribution of Black-Led Films

By Sameer Rao Oct 03, 2017

Netflix’s new financing and distribution deal for an upcoming "Shaft" sequel may pave a path for future projects with Black filmmakers and stars to earn more money from untapped revenue streams. 

Deadline reported yesterday (October 2) that the streaming giant and New Line Cinema were close to an agreement for the movie, which the International Movie Database says is tentatively titled "Son of Shaft." The entertainment news outlet describes the deal as follows: 

Netflix will pay more than half the film’s high $30 million budget, in exchange for international rights and the ability to put the film on its streaming outside the U.S. two weeks after New Line releases theatrically in the United States. 

Deadline says that this kind of deal, in which a streaming service has rights to release a film to international markets during a domestic theatrical run, is rare for any kind of film, but especially for ones by Black directors. The deal also affords "Son of Shaft" director Tim Story ("Ride Along" franchise) a higher budget. 

Deadline adds that this deal is especially lucrative for what it terms "urban themed" films (read: movies made for predominantly Black audiences), which often earn most of their box office in the United States: 

While there are exceptions, urban themed films turn the bulk of profit in the U.S. The recent summer sleeper, the $19 million "Girls Trip," grossed a robust $115 million domestic, and has generated an extra $20 million offshore. This despite the fact that many movies rely on overseas for 75 percent of their global box office gross.

Black filmmakers rarely secure the kind of upfront funding that banner-name White directors get. Netflix’s financing pool will give "Son of Shaft" a higher budget, while the international streaming could help it turn a profit faster.

According to Deadline, "Son of Shaft" stars Jessie T. Usher ("Survivor’s Remorse") as a rookie FBI cyber investigator who partners with his estranged father, detective John Shaft II (Samuel L. Jackson, "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), for an undetermined investigation.

Jackson reprises his role from the 2000 action film, "Shaft," which is itself a sequel to the 1971 original about the eponymous private eye (Richard Roundtree, "Being Mary Jane") fighting the Italian Mafia’s grip on Harlem’s Black denizens. Deadline adds that Roundtree, who starred as the first John Shaft (uncle to Jackson’s character) in the 2000 movie, may come back for "Son of Shaft."

"Black-ish" creator Kenya Barris wrote the "Son of Shaft" script. Deadline reports that production will begin in December of this year.