UPDATE (8:30 PM PST): Tom Cruise has confirmed that Brad Bird has signed on to direct the fourth entry in the Mission: Impossible series. The film will mark Bird's first foray into live-action; previously, he helmed the traditionally-animated sci-fi film The Iron Giant, which gained a cult audience on video, and went on to make the incredibly successful films The Incredibles and Ratatouille for Pixar.
Original report follows...
Source: Deadline Hollywood Daily
Paramount has set a date for the fourth entry into the big-screen Mission: Impossible franchise, which will explode onto the screen on December 16th, 2011. J.J. Abrams is returning to produce.
The previous Mission: Impossible opened amidst the controversy over Tom Cruise's appearance on Oprah, and suffered at the box office as a result, grossing only $134 million in comparison to the $215 million of II (unadjusted) and $180 million of the original (unadjusted). At the time, Paramount chief Sumner Redstone claimed he wouldn't make a movie with Cruise again, but the two later reconciled, and the fourth film was greenlit. Even so, the studio appears to be hedging their bets, picking winter over an already-crowded Summer 2012 spot.
In recent weeks, several names have been considered for the director's chair, including Scott Pilgrim's Edgar Wright and Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer. The front-runner, however, seems to have been (and still is) animation director Brad Bird, whose live-action passion project 1906 has stalled at Warner Bros. over budget issues. Bird likely hopes that putting a successful blockbuster under his belt will be enough to convince Warner to move ahead with 1906. However, no director has been confirmed.