Titles, Release Dates Announced For Peter Jackson's <i>Hobbit</i> Movies

Peter Jackson's upcoming two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy The Hobbit now officially have titles and release dates. What, you didn't think they were going to be called The Hobbit, Part 1 and Part 2, did you?

The first movie, called The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released on Dec. 14, 2012., while the second, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, will open on Dec. 13, 2013 (The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is the full title of the novel; the first chapter is called "An Unexpected Party"). Both are being shot now in digital 3D in New Zealand.

Set 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit follows the journey of the title character Bilbo Baggins -- played by Martin Freeman as well as Ian Holm, reprising his role as the elderly Bilbo -- as he's swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug.

In other Hobbit news, Jackson has begun answering fan questions of his Facebook page: First up, whether the movies will depict the White Council attacking Dol Guldor, the stronghold of Sauron in Mirkwood -- an event that takes place during the time of the novel, but not actually included in its pages.

"I'm not going to say just what and when," the director responded, "but I will confirm that both the White Council and Dol Guldur will feature in the movies. And not just in one scene either. Just how to visualise it has been a challenge, but fortunately Alan Lee and John Howe went crazy with ideas, and it should look pretty cool."

The Hobbit stars Ian McKellen, returning as Gandalf the Grey, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Other actors reprising their Lord of the Rings roles are: Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Orlando Bloom as Legolas; Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The ensemble cast also includes Richard Armitage, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas and Aidan Turner.

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