The Hobbit's final journey is going to take a little longer than expected.
New Line Cinema, MGM and Warner Bros. have jointly announced that The Hobbit: There and Back Again—the final chapter in Peter Jackson's epic film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic The Hobbit—has been pushed from July 18, 2014, to Dec. 17, 2014.
For Middle-earth fans, delaying Bilbo, Gandalf and company makes sense considering all three entries in the director's Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy hit theaters over the holiday season. And the first two films in Jackson's new Hobbit cycle are following that release pattern as well.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey unspooled on Dec. 14, 2012, and the forthcoming sequel The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is due to arrive on Dec. 13, 2013.
Unleashing There and Back Again in the heat of the summer blockbuster season would have broken with tradition and rather followed Warner's distribution strategy for its two-part Harry Potter finale when it released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in November 2010 and Part 2 in July 2011.
While no reason was given for the postponement, nonetheless the studios are happy to stick with what's worked in the past.
"We're excited to complete the trilogy the same way we started it, as a holiday treat for moviegoers everywhere," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has grossed a whopping $980 million worldwide, per Boxofficemojo.com. And like that film, its two follow-ups will be made available in the 3D 48-frames-per-second format that Jackson prefers for its more "immersive" qualities as well as the current 24-frames-per-second standard.