During Comic-Con, director Peter Jackson told a reporter for HitFix that he was considering splitting the second and final part of "The Hobbit" -- titled "The Hobbit: There And Back Again" -- into two films, bringing the series to trilogy length.
"We have certainly been talking to the studio about some of the material we can't film, and we've been asking them so we can do a bit more filming next year," he said. "Which, I don't know what would come of that, whether it'd be extended editions or whatnot. But those discussions are ongoing."
Apparently the discussions have moved forward significantly. As first reported by the Los Angeles Times and later confirmed by THR, Jackson and Warner Bros. are in talks about extending his time in Middle-earth. Should the complicated deals come to pass -- actors' contracts and rights issues must be ironed out before any new film is produced -- the third "Hobbit" film could begin shooting next summer. Presumably, it would hit theaters in December of 2014. ("The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" arrives on Dec. 14; "The Hobbit: There And Back Again" is out on Dec. 15, 2013.)
While little is known about what additional scenes would be in "The Hobbit 3," Jackson does have plenty of material to mine. As the director told HuffPost Entertainment, he was given the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien's 125-page "Return of the King" appendixes.
"We were able to expand 'The Hobbit' and to flesh it out and bring a lot of that material into the narrative of 'The Hobbit,'" he said.
Beyond being a boon for fans, splitting "The Hobbit" into three films would do wonders for the bottom lines of Warner Bros., New Line and MGM, the studios co-producing the massive feature. Jackson's last trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings," grossed nearly $2.9 billion worldwide.
For more on the third "Hobbit" film and the likelihood of it occurring, head over to the Los Angeles Times.