Earlier in the summer, Peter Jackson officially confirmed that The Hobbit would be transformed into a trilogy, with Jackson planning a return to New Zealand in the New Year to shoot more footage to bring us not two but three instalments for his upcoming The Hobbit.

The first instalment is set for release this December, and will be titled, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Initially, the second instalment was to be titled, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, and when news surfaced that there would be one final instalment, I was really hoping that the subtitle for the second film would be held back for the third – and now Warner Bros. have officially announced that they’ve done just that, along with the title of the second film, and the release dates for both.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be released on 13th December, 2013, and it will be followed soon after by The Hobbit: There and Back Again on 18th July, 2014.

That means that we’ll only be kept waiting for a little more than half a year between the second and third films, considerably cutting down the year-long gap between An Unexpected Journey and the newly-titled The Desolation of Smaug.

“Dan Fellman, Warner Bros Pictures President of Domestic Distribution said in a statement, “We wanted to have a shorter gap between the second and third films of The Hobbit Trilogy. 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, Warner Bros Pictures President of International Distribution, added, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again opening in the summer will maximize playability for what promises to be an event film for fans the world over.””

This December will see Jackson reuniting with a host of familiar faces, and bringing plenty of new ones to the big screen, with An Unexpected Journey’s all-star cast headed up by Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo Baggins, Andy Serkis, Stephen Fry, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, and Christopher Lee.

It may seem somewhat trivial, but ‘There and Back Again’ just seems like a fitting title for the end of the trilogy, and what could potentially be our final return to Middle-earth under Jackson’s direction.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be the first instalment of the trilogy, coming to the big screen in 3D and IMAX 3D (and, in select theatres, in 48fps) on 14th December, 2012. It will then be followed by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on 13th December, 2013, and finally by The Hobbit: There and Back Again on 18th July, 2014. Everybody excited? Let us know exactly how much in the comments below.

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Source: via Deadline.