‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’: Release delayed until December 2014

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

Fans who are counting the days until the release of the final installment in Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy are going to have to wait a bit longer. But at least they have a Christmas gift to look forward to in 2014.

Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," the last movie in Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's saga of life in Middle Earth, will open in theaters on December 17, 2014, five months after its previously scheduled debut of July 18. While the studio didn't offer a reason for the delay, it does give "There and Back Again" a more open playing field; the original July release would have forced the movie to slug it out against another highly anticipated fanboy favorite, "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," which is also slated for July 18.

Even with the five months delay, "Hobbit" fans are getting more movie than they originally anticipated. Peter Jackson originally intended to spin two movies from Tolkien's pre-"Lord of the Rings" novel "The Hobbit," but when Jackson and his screenwriters were granted access to some of the author's supplementary writings, they took the bold step of turning the project into a trilogy.

The new opening date has tradition on its side: all three "Lord Of The Rings" films arrived in theaters in December, as did 2012's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." With "The Unexpected Journey" having grossed close to $990 million so far, it's hard to argue with a successful release strategy.

One thing that hasn't changed is the anticipated release date of the second film in Jackson's series, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." It's still on track to open on December 13, 2013.