Warner Bros. and New Line have set July 18, 2014, as the release date for the third film in Peter Jackson's ambitious The Hobbit trilogy.
Additionally, the second film has been retitled The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The third film will take the title that was previously assigned to the second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again.
Warners is banking big on the trilogy. And, in sharp contrast to Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the second and third Hobbit pics will open within seven months of each other (the Lord of the Rings pics opened a year apart, at Christmas).
“We wanted to have a shorter gap between the second and third films," Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman 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."
Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president of international distribution, added: "The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be an action spectacle and an emotional conclusion for this already much-anticipated trilogy. Opening in the summer will maximize playability for what promises to be an event film for fans the world over.”
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens Dec. 14 of this year, followed by Desolation of Smaug on Dec. 13, 2013.
Jackson's new trilogy is set in Middle-earth, 60 years before The Lord of the Rings. An Unexpected Journey was penned by Fran Walsh, Philippa Bovens, Jackson and Guillermo del Toro.
The three films are productions of New Line and MGM, with New Line managing production. Warners is handling worldwide distribution, with MGM handling select territories.