Film studio Warner Bros says it has tied up the international rights to cinema and video distribution of Sir Peter Jackson's two-part $US500 million ($NZ660m) adaptation of The Hobbit.
Executives of financially-troubled MGM, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros announced the deal today in Los Angeles, and said that while Warner Bros Pictures will handle the bulk of worldwide distribution, GM will handle international television licensing for the films and the two companies will coordinate marketing and release plans worldwide.
The statement was released by MGM co-chairman Roger Birnbaum and his chief executive Gary Barber, New ine Cinema president Toby Emmerich and Warner Bros president Alan Horn.
The first of the two The Hobbit films is due to screen in ordinary cinemas, 3D, and IMAX 3D theatres on December 19 2012, with the second film screening a year later.
Jackson, who directed all three The Lord of the Rings films, will helm the two films back-to-back, telling JRR Tolkien's story of Bilbo Baggins from screenplays he has written with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro.
The two films are set to begin production next month, using ground-breaking visual effects filmed in digital 3-D, with the latest camera and stereo technology.
Jackson, Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham are producing the films for New Line, Warner Bros and MGM, with co-writer Boyens serving as co-producer and Ken Kamins and Zane Weiner as executive producers.
The Oscar-winning, critically-acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy from the same production team grossed nearly $US3 billion worldwide at the box office.
In 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King swept the Academy Awards, winning all of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, including the first best picture win for a fantasy film.
Jackson has signed Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins and Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom to reprise their roles as the elves Galadriel and Legolas.