Peter Jackson's third "The Hobbit" film will debut July 18, 2014, Warner Bros. and MGM announced on Friday.
Jackson, MGM and New Line, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., decided in July to split the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's iconic book, initially planned as two films, into three.
The first film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," bows Dec. 14 while the second film, now titled "The Desolation of Smaug," is set for Dec. 13, 2013.
Unlike those two, the third installment, "There and Back Again," gets a summer release date. With blockbuster franchises like "Harry Potter" and "Batman" finished, Warner Bros. has been hunting for new tentpoles. Releasing a third "Hobbit" film in the summer gives the studio a very strong entry in the 2014 field.
"We wanted to have a shorter gap between the second and third films of 'The Hobbit' Trilogy," Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said in a statement. "Opening in July affords us not only the perfect summer tentpole, but fans will have less time to wait for the finale of this epic adventure."
The July 18 date is right around when Warner Bros. released "The Dark Knight Rises," the third film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, this summer. That film was a massive box office success, though its cume was suppressed both by the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo. and the Olympics.
Jackson wrapped production on "The Hobbit" in early July, posting a picture on Facebook for his coterie of diehard fans. He then showed a video from the set days later at Comic-Con in San Diego.
The "King Kong" director made no secret about how footage he had accumulated, a factor that made it easier for all sides to push ahead with a third one. Additional filming will take place at Stone Street Studios in Wellington and other New Zealand locations.
The films, which are prequels to "The Lord of the Rings," star Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and bring back Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf.
It was shot in 3D and at 48 frames-per-second. Though the higher frame rate unsettled viewers who saw early footage, Jackson has insisted viewers will get used to it.
All three films will be released in High Frame Rate 3D, other 3D formats, IMAX and 2D.