Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema announced an agreement today to make a movie out of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings movies for which Jackson won multiple Academy Awards. Jackson will also make a sequel to The Hobbit, with a storyline yet to be announced.
The films will release in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
The Associated Press reported that Jackson will only executive produce the films, but Saul Zaentz, producer of the LOTR movies, reportedly told the German magazine Cinema that Jackson will also direct the film. But MGM Chairman Harry Sloan, who was credited by all parties for bringing about the deal, said Jackson found it "impossible" to direct the film and meet proposed release dates in 2010 and 2011 due to other projects on which he is now working.
Regardless of whether Jackson directs or not, the news comes as a bit of a surprise, since the relationship between Jackson and New Line Cinema soured after the mammoth success of the LOTR films. Jackson had sued New Line over the amount he was paid for The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the LOTR's three films.
But on Tuesday, both parties announced that the litigation has been resolved. One can't help but wonder if New Line hurried to resolve those differences once it became clear that The Golden Compass, now in theaters, wasn't going to be a box office hit. The relative failure of Compass may mean that New Line will scrap potential plans for sequels to that film—there are three books in the trilogy on which it is based—which has been embroiled in controversy for the last few months.
According to a press release from New Line, Jackson, MGM Chairman/CEO Harry Sloan and New Line Co-Chairmen Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne have entered into the following series of agreements:
- MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute two films, The Hobbit and a sequel to The Hobbit. New Line will distribute in North America and MGM will distribute internationally.
- Jackson and Fran Walsh will serve as Executive Producers of two films based on The Hobbit. New Line will manage the production of the films, which will be shot simultaneously.
- Jackson and New Line have settled all litigation relating to the LOTR Trilogy.
"I'm very pleased that we've been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line," said Jackson. "The Lord of the Rings is a legacy we proudly share with Bob and Michael, and together, we share that legacy with millions of loyal fans all over the world.We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle Earth."
"Peter Jackson has proven himself as the filmmaker who can bring the extraordinary imagination of Tolkien to life and we full heartedly agree with the fans worldwide who know he should be making The Hobbit," said MGM's Sloan. "Now that we are all in agreement on The Hobbit, we can focus on assembling the production team that will capture this phenomenal tale on film."
New Line's Shaye, who less than a year ago vowed he'd never work with Jackson again, "We are very pleased we have been able to resolve our differences, and that Peter and Fran will be actively and creatively involved with The Hobbit movies. We know they will bring the same passion, care and talent to these films that they so ably accomplished with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy."
"Peter is a visionary filmmaker, and he broke new ground with The Lord of the Rings," adds New Line's Lynne. "We're delighted he's back for The Hobbit films and that the Tolkien saga will continue with his imprint."
The two Hobbit films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with pre-production beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with The Hobbit release slated for 2010 and its sequel the following year, in 2011.
The Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed LOTR Trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office. In 2003, Return of the King swept the Academy Awards, winning all of the eleven categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture.
For more information about The Hobbit films, please visit The Official Movie Blog.
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