The speculation can come to an end. Peter Jackson has taken to Facebook to confirm the rumors that his two Hobbit films will now become a trilogy beginning with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on December 14, 2012, followed by The Hobbit: There and Back Again on December 13, 2013 and now an as-yet-untitled third film in the trilogy is likely to hit theaters Summer 2014 (source).
Here's Jackson's note as posted on Facebook:
It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie - and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved 'yes.'
We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance. The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.
So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of The Hobbit films, I'd like to announce that two films will become three.
It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, "a tale that grew in the telling."
The rumors this would happen first began when Jackson teased the idea at Comic Con back on July 14, from there it became a question of shooting the new footage necessary to expand the story and securing new actor deals for the expansive cast as well as shoring up certain rights associated with the property. It would seem the necessary stars have aligned.
So there you have it, are you excited The Hobbit will now be a trilogy?