50 years ago, on 20 June 1973 at 9 a.m., SHAFT IN AFRICA opened in New York at the Cinerama on Broadway and 47th Street, the 59th Street Twin #2 and the RKO 86th Street Twin #2 theatres. The first 300 patrons at the Cinerama also received a copy of The Four Tops’ single from the film ‘Are You Man Enough?’ (ABC/Dunhill Records. D-4354), which would reach #15 on the Billboard chart. The following day, a special screening was held at the Black National Newspaper Publishers Association’s 32nd Annual Convention in Houston, Texas. This was followed by a reception at the Houston Oaks Hotel hosted by Vonetta McGee. Openings in Los Angeles and 146 key theatres across other major US cities followed a week later, on 27 June.
The film, shot in Ethiopia, Madrid and New York, was directed by Englishman John Gullermin and again starred Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, with co-stars Vonetta McGee, Frank Finlay and Neda Arneric.
Unfortunately, the film could not match the success of its predecessors at the box office. Roundtree offered his thoughts on the film’s relative failure years later in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1995, “By the third film, SHAFT IN AFRICA, I was becoming comfortable in front of the camera. It was one of the best, but no one could relate to Shaft being in Africa at the time. Maybe Shaft in Detroit or Los Angeles… You could probably do it in Africa now but not in 1973.”