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Rejoice, My Prrrecious: Peter Jackson Signs on to "The Hobbit"

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He's gone to Middle Earth and now he's back again: Peter Jackson has finally agreed to executive-produce not one, but TWO films of "The Hobbit." New Line Pictures, which produced the massively successful and critically acclaimed "Lord of the Rings" films, had originally dumped Jackson from the "Hobbit" sequels because of ongoing disputes over profits Jackson claimed he was owed for "The Fellowship of The Ring." But this morning's press release declares that all litigation has been ceased, and Jackson and his wife/business partner Fran Walsh will executive produce both films:

MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute two films, "The Hobbit" and a sequel to it. New Line will distribute in North America and MGM will distribute internationally. 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" to be released in 2010 and the sequel the following year.

Although a director has not been named yet, Jackson's involvement with the films will hopefully transform into box-office mithril for New Line and MGM; it also means that fans have a reason to expect quality films. The narrative style of "The Hobbit" is actually quite different from the much longer, more detailed "Rings" trilogy, so it will be interesting to see how the filmmakers spin Tolkien's children's tale into two separate films. Tolkien borrowed much of the plot from his favorite Anglo-Saxon poem, "Beowulf" -- could a 3-D Smaug be a possibility?