COVID-19 has forced yet another major release date push as Paramount announced on Wednesday that three of its biggest upcoming titles — “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Mission: Impossible 7” and “Jackass Forever” — will be pushed back to 2022.
“Mission: Impossible 7,” which had been slated for release next year on Memorial Day weekend, has been moved to Sept. 30, 2022, while “Top Gun: Maverick” moves to that Memorial Day slot from a previous spot of Nov. 19. “Jackass Forever” will move from Oct. 2 to Feb. 4, 2022.
While Paramount has released one of the few pandemic box office success stories of the year with “A Quiet Place — Part II,” the two blockbusters starring Tom Cruise are critical tentpoles for the studio with $150 million-plus budgets co-produced with Skydance.
Paramount needs the global box office to be as strong as possible for both films to truly turn a profit, and it is uncertain how much or even if regions hamstrung by COVID-19, particularly the Asia-Pacific markets, would be able to recover by the time “Top Gun” was set for release in November. While Australia, New Zealand and much of Southeast Asia are dealing with widespread closures amid new surges, Japan and Korea continue to be more than half off of their normal box office market with capacity restrictions in much of those countries.
Instead, Paramount is going to take its chances putting Cruise against some major competition. The week after “MI7” releases in late September, Sony will release its sequel to the Oscar-winning animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” “Top Gun: Maverick,” meanwhile, now goes head-to-head against another action film in Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 4.” Lionsgate didn’t flinch from putting Keanu Reeves head-to-head against Cruise when “MI7” held the Memorial Day slot, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them decide not to make a move in response to Paramount.
But Sony has taken advantage of the departure of “Top Gun: Maverick” from 2021, moving “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” a week back from Nov. 11 to Nov. 19. The Jason Reitman-directed sequel to his father’s 1984 sci-fi classic got strong reception fron attendees at CinemaCon who enjoyed its first public screening, and Sony will be hoping that strong word-of-mouth from the film’s mid-November release will allow it to build steam heading into Thanksgiving the following weekend and also have support from IMAX and premium large formats.
While public comfort with watching films in movie theaters remains fairly positive, the rise of the Delta variant has led polls to take a hit from their midsummer highs. In August, NRG polls showed that an average of 67% of moviegoers said they are comfortable with returning to theaters, down from 78% a month prior and primarily driven by women over 25 with 57% saying they feel comfortable compared to 79% for men. In last week’s poll, 58% of parents are “very or somewhat comfortable” taking their children to the movies, the lowest seen since April.