Jackson, New Line Make Nice, Move Onto Hobbit

With the shadow of poor box office receipts for what it hoped would be the next LORD OF THE RINGS franchise, New Line has announced a pact with Peter Jackson to bring two films to the screen based on J.R.R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT.

As part of the deal, MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute two films, THE HOBBIT and a sequel to THE HOBBIT. New Line will distribute in North America and MGM will distribute internationally. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will serve as exec producers. New Line will manage the production of the films, which will be shot simultaneously. Peter Jackson and New Line have settled all litigation relating to the LORD OF THE RINGS (LOTR) trilogy.

Jackson said, "I'm very pleased that we've been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line. THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a legacy we proudly share with Bob and Michael, and together, we share that legacy with millions of loyal fans all over the world. We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle Earth. I also want to thank [MGM Chairman and CEO] Harry Sloan and our new friends at MGM for helping us find the common ground necessary to continue that journey."

"Peter Jackson has proven himself as the filmmaker who can bring the extraordinary imagination of Tolkien to life and we full-heartedly agree with the fans worldwide who know he should be making THE HOBBIT," said Sloan. "Now that we are all in agreement on THE HOBBIT, we can focus on assembling the production team that will capture this phenomenal tale on film."

Bob Shaye, New Line Co-Chairman and Co-CEO commented, "We are very pleased we have been able to resolve our differences, and that Peter and Fran will be actively and creatively involved with THE HOBBIT movies. We know they will bring the same passion, care and talent to these films that they so ably accomplished with THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy."

The two films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with preproduction beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with the release of THE HOBBIT slated for 2010 and its sequel the following year, in 2011.

The Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed LOTR Trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office. In 2003, RETURN OF THE KING swept the Academy Awards, winning all of the eleven categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture -- the first-ever Best Picture win for a fantasy film. The trilogy's production was also unprecedented at the time.

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