LOS ANGELES -- Paramount Pictures has postponed the release of Tom Cruise films "Top Gun: Maverick" until May 2022 and "Mission: Impossible 7" until September 2022, a spokesman for the ViacomCBS Inc. studio said Wednesday, as COVID-19 infections rise.
The "Top Gun" sequel, which has been delayed multiple times during the pandemic, had been set to debut in theaters on Nov. 19, just ahead of Thanksgiving, to kick off the holiday moviegoing season.
"Top Gun" will now debut on May 27, the date that "M:I 7" had been set to light up screens over next year's Memorial Day weekend. That forced a shift for "M:I 7," which was moved to Sept. 30, 2022.
Movie studios have repeatedly shuffled their schedules as they try to gauge when crowds will return to cinemas. The Delta variant of the coronavirus has disrupted a hoped-for comeback.
Theater chains, including AMC Entertainment, Cineworld Plc and Cinemark Holdings, are counting on blockbusters such as "Top Gun" to help lure audiences back. The movie is a follow-up to the 1986 hit starring Cruise as an elite U.S. Navy fighter pilot.
Jeff Bock, senior media analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co., called Paramount's decision on "Top Gun" a "smart move."
"Paramount needs this to be a big worldwide hit. Global marketplace just isn't there yet," Bock wrote on Twitter.
Theater operators hope other big-budget films will cling to their 2021 schedules. James Bond movie "No Time to Die" is currently set for release in cinemas on Oct. 8, and studio MGM has insisted that date will stick.
Other upcoming films include Sony's "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" in October, Marvel's "Eternals" in November and "Spider-Man: No Way Home" in December.