Basic Timeline leading up to the greenlight for and start of production on The Hobbit film trilogy



Pre-2004

1969: Tolkien sells the film rights to his works to United Artists (UA). 1
1976: UA sells the film rights to Saul Zaentz for $10,000. 2
1997: Saul Zaentz sells the film rights to Miramax. It is later discovered that Zaentz only held the production rights and that the distribution rights remains with UA which has since merged with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (MGM). 3
1998: New Line Cinema purchases The Hobbit rights from Miramax, which is realized, at some point, to only be the production rights. 4

2004

February
18: New Line says it will only pursue a deal on filming The Hobbit if Peter Jackson heads the project. "He’s so passionate about the subject and we feel very loyal to him," said Bob Shaye, New Line’s co-chairman. Jackson comments, "I definitely wouldn’t want to see anyone else do it." The project could start at the end of 2005 if the distribution rights issue can be sorted out soon. 5
August
19: Saul Zaentz sues New Line for unpaid Lord of the Rings film royalties. 6

2005

March
1: Wingnut Films, Jackson’s production company, sues New Line, alleging fraudulent bookkeeping in regards to The Fellowship of the Ring and giving favorable treatment to affiliates in the New Line family thus reducing profits from subsidiary merchandise. 7 8
12: Jackson predicts production for The Hobbit is at least three or four years away. 9
August
30: New Line settles lawsuit with Saul Zaentz. 10
December
20: Jackson says at premiere of King Kong, "I don’t think that anyone’s going to call me until those rights issues are resolved." 11

2006

September
15: In an open letter to New Line and MGM, TORn writes, "New Line and PJ still have this sticky lawsuit left over from the LOTR films so we are a bit concerned. Jackson has made it very clear, over and over, even again this week, that he has not yet been invited to the table to have Hobbit discussions." 12
November
19: In an email sent to TORn, Jackson related that since he won't negotiate a contract for The Hobbit until the lawsuit regarding The Lord of the Rings is settled, New Line will be now be looking to hire another filmmaker for the two projected "Hobbit" movies. Says Jackson, "We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects." 13
December
18: TORn staffer, Demosthenes, wonders, "What does it mean for the viability of the production? Will anyone back two films if Jackson is not directing? Who are the alternatives anyway? Will WETA still do the FX, and will the production be based in New Zealand? And will actors such as Ian McKellen still want to come on board?" 14

2007

January
10: Bob Shaye, head of New Line, says Peter Jackson "will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again while [Shaye is] still working for the company." 15 16
11: Wingnut releases an official statement in response to Shaye's boycott of Jackson. 17 "Fundamentally, our legal action is about holding New Line to it’s contractual obligations and promises. It is regrettable that Bob has chosen to make it personal. I have always had the highest respect and affection for Bob and other senior management at New Line and continue to do so.'' 18
27: Reports surface that Sam Raimi is considering directing The Hobbit. 19
May
26: Raimi states he only discussed The Hobbit with Shaye informally one time and he would only sign on if Jackson was "Ok" with that. 20
June
1: Although Shaye remains firm that he will not negotiate with Jackson, New Line co-chief, Michael Lynne more positively stated, "We do want to settle our dispute and I think we will." 21
August
10: Signalling that New Line and Jackson are trying to work out their differences, Shaye says, "Notwithstanding our personal quarrels, I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit." 22
11: Sharing rumors that both Jackson and Raimi may be negotiating for The Hobbit, TORn notes that Shaye (the day before) said he'd like Jackson to be "creatively involved" but not specifically as director. 23
September
20: New Line is fined for failing to turn over court-ordered documents in regard to Jackson's lawsuit against the film company. 24
October
18: Raimi says he thinks it would be great if Jackson were to direct The Hobbit but if Jackson is only interested in producing, Raimi would be happy to direct. 25
November
5: The Writers Guild of America, representing film, television, and radio writers working in the United States, goes on strike. 26 (Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh are all members of the WGA)
December
18: A press release 27 announces:
* MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute two films, The Hobbit and a sequel to The Hobbit.
* Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will serve as Executive Producers of both films. (Jackson is unable to direct the films and meet the proposed release dates due to other projects he is working on. 28)
* Jackson and New Line have settled all litigation relating to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Trilogy.
* The two films will be shot simultaneously, with pre-production beginning as soon as possible and principal photography tentatively set for 2009.
* The Hobbit release is slated for 2010 and its sequel in 2011.

2008

January
28: Guillermo del Toro is revealed to be in negotiations to direct the two "Hobbit" films. 29
29: del Toro reported to be edging out Raimi for the director's helm of the films. 30
30: TORn contacts a New Line "insider" who says it is "99-percent certain" that Guillermo del Toro will be the director of the "Hobbit" film. The official announcement will come once the writer's strike is settled. 31
February
11: New Line Cinema is sued by the Tolkien Estate over royalties for The Lord of the Rings films which could disrupt plans for The Hobbit movies. 32
12: The Writers Guild of America strike is resolved. 33
28: New Line becomes a unit of Warner Bros. Pictures 34 and Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne depart the company. 35
29: Although the reorganization of New Line will reportedly not affect del Toro's expected status as director, the release dates for the two movies are now being projected as Christmas 2011 and 2012. 36
March
18: TORn talks to del Toro who reports, "At this stage anything I say is of no consequence for I am not yet signed to do 'The Hobbit.' Negotiations advance but are still ongoing,"'' 37 but in another interview, he indicated scripting for the movie had begun. 38
19: A new poster named Guillermo posts a riddle on TORn's message boards. The same riddle is also posted on the Hellboy message boards by someone with an administrator's login 39 and by del Toro, himself, on his own message board. 40 Message Board member, Elven, thinks the solution to the riddle is, "something [will be] revealed on Monday on the 24th of April at 7am." 41 Message Board member, wilsonst541, takes it a little further speculating "GDT and PJ would be broadcasting (joining) from two places, allowing one man’s clock to read 2:00 while the other reads 7:00." 42 Forum Admin, Kimi, points out that "2 pm in NZ is 7 pm (the previous day) in LA."
24: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and executives from New Line Cinema and MGM announce from Hollywood that Guillermo del Toro will direct the two "Hobbit" films. 43 del Toro posts on TORn's Message Boards, "now its all done- I’m confirmed and signed as the HOBBIT (SES) and I hope to join your community from this day forth." 44
August
20: The writing team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro is officially signed to collaborate on screenwriting for The Hobbit films. 45 46
26: MGM denies, in "couched" language, rumors that it is exploring options to sell the company. 47

2009

Although some timelines say pre-production began in 2008 (presumably when the script writing began), in fact pre-production can only be officially started once the film has been given a green-light. TORn does use the term "pre-production" in the limbo time between the announcement that scripting had begun and the announcement that The Hobbit had been green-lit. But the language between August 2008-October 2010 slowly shifted from "pre-production" to "pre-pre-production" or "early/unofficial pre-production."

September
8: The lawsuit brought by The Tolkien Trust against New Line Cinema in regard to the Lord of the Rings films is resolved. On behalf of the Trust, Christopher Tolkien commented, "The Trustees acknowledge that New Line may now proceed with its proposed films of The Hobbit." 48
25: MGM is reported to be "teetering on bankruptcy" and in need of $170 million to get through the end of the year and to fund film projects including The Hobbit. 49
October
2: MGM secures enough support from key lenders to proceed with The Hobbit. 50
November
12: MGM is reportedly to be put up for auction in the next few weeks. 51

2010

March
27: TORn writes they have "rock-solid information from an absolutely reliable source that the MGM financial situation is indeed what is behind the delays of the start of The Hobbit," and that it is almost certain that the first movie cannot be released until 2012. 52
April
3: In a TORn's Message Board post, del Toro says the project can't move beyond pre-pre-production without a green-light and the green-light can't come while MGM is up for auction. 53
16: Peter Jackson tries to clarify the status of the film project by saying: 54
* The script for both movies are finished.
* The movies are not behind schedule because no schedule has been set.
* Casting actors can't happen until the movie is green-lit by the studios.
* MGM's financial instability is slowing up the start of production.
May
30: Breaking the news to TORn first, Guillermo del Toro announces he is stepping down from directing the two "Hobbit" movies. He cites the ongoing delays in the start of filming which created conflicting times schedules for his other projects as the reason for leaving and wishes the production the best. He remains a co-writer on the film and will continue in that role for several more months until the scripts are finished. 55
June
18: Neill Blomkamp's name for director is sent to TORn via a "spy report." Other info is included in this report that rings true and a case is made by a TORn staffer that Blomkamp in the director's role makes sense. 56
September
25: Saying the producers of The Hobbit have refused to sign a deal with NZ performers, seven unions representing actors from Canada, US, UK, and Australia advise their members not to work on the "non-union production." 57
26: Peter Jackson issues a statement saying, "the 'demands' of (the union) cannot be agreed to, or even considered – by law – and therefore the only options that remain involve closing the Hobbit down, or more likely shifting the production to Europe." 58
28: New Line, Warner Bros. and MGM issue a statement supporting Jackson and advising they will explore options other than filming in NZ so The Hobbit production can "proceed without disruption." 59
30: A fire breaks out in the Jackson owned Portsmouth Miniature Studio. 60
October
3: According to Philippa Boyens, other countries, including Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia, are vying for consideration as "Hobbit" filming locations. 61
15: The Hobbit duology gets its official greenlight. 62 A short time later, it is announced that Peter Jackson will act as director to the two movies. 63
20: News breaks that The Hobbit will not be filmed in NZ due to the actors union dispute. 64 65 Within hours, the actors union releases its boycott of the the films. 66 67 (additional reading: "The New Zealand Hobbit Crisis" by Jonathan Handel, contributing editor for The Hollywood Reporter.)
27: An announcement is made that the "Hobbit" films will be filmed in NZ. 68

2011

January
6: Warner Brothers assumes distribution responsibilities on MGM's behalf for The Hobbit. Production is set to begin February 2011, with target release dates of December 2012 and December 2013. The movies will be filmed in 3D. 69
26: Peter Jackson is admitted to hospital and treated for a perforated ulcer. Beyond a slight delay in the start of filming, it is not expected to impact The Hobbit production. 70

2012

July
30: An announcement is made that a third "Hobbit" movie will be filmed, making the project a trilogy rather than duology. 71
 

1 September 16th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Celebriel’s Dragon*Con Report: Making “The Hobbit” Happen

2 October 2, 2006 ~ The Frodo Franchise: what’s going on with the hobbit film?

3 September 16th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Celebriel’s Dragon*Con Report: Making “The Hobbit” Happen

4 September 16th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Celebriel’s Dragon*Con Report: Making “The Hobbit” Happen

5 February 18th, 2004 ~ TORn News Article: Chasing ‘The Hobbit’

6 August 19th, 2004 ~ TORn News Article: ‘Rings’ Rights-Holder Sues for $20 Million Royalties

7 March 1st, 2005 ~ TORn News Article: Jackson sues New Line Cinema over LOTR profits

8 March 6th, 2005 ~ TORn News Article: More Details on PJ/New Line Lawsuit

9 March 12th, 2005 ~ TORn News Article: The Hobbit ‘at least 3yrs away’

10 August 30th, 2005 ~ TORn News Article: Filmmaker ‘earns £94m from Rings’

11 December 20th, 2005 ~ TORn News Article: The Hobbit Still a Possibility

12 September 15th, 2006 ~ TORn News Article: An open letter to New Line and MGM Re: The Hobbit!!!

13 November 19th, 2006 ~ TORn News Article: Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh Talk THE HOBBIT

14 December 18th, 2006 ~ TORn News Article: TORN’s voice on making The Hobbit happen

15 January 10th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Shaye: New Line Blacklists Jackson

16 January 10th, 2007 ~ Variety Article: Shaye denies Jackson ‘Hobbit’ gig

17 January 11th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Round 3: Wingnut and PJ Reacts

18 January 10th, 2007 ~ Ain't It Cool News: Wingnut and Peter Jackson respond to Bob Shaye’s tongue-lashings!!

19 January 27th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Sam Raimi considering ‘The Hobbit’

20 May 26th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Raimi Clarifies Hobbit Reports

21 June 1st, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: New Line’s Shaye won’t yield to Jackson

22 August 10th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: A ray of hope for Jackson fans and the fate of ‘The Hobbit’

23 August 11th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: The plot of ‘The Hobbit’ thickens

24 September 20th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Round one to Jackson in LOTR profits fight

25 October 18th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Sam Raimi Talks The Hobbit

26 November 5, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Writer's Guild of America

27 December 18th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: PETER JACKSON AND NEW LINE CINEMA JOIN WITH MGM TO PRODUCE "THE HOBBIT" Movie

28 December 18th, 2007 ~ TORn News Article: Peter Jackson ‘too busy’ to direct The Hobbit

29 January 28th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Del Toro doubling up for ‘The Hobbit’?

30 January 29th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: "Guillermo will direct ‘The Hobbit’…"

31 January 30th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: TORN exclusive: Del Toro "99 percent certain" says NL insider.

32 February 11th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Tolkien Estate Sues New Line

33 February 12, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Writer's Guild of America

34 February 28th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Warner Bros. gobbles up New Line

35 February 28, 2008~ Variety Article: New Line in Warner’s corner

36 February 29th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: New Line Folds: The Big Question…What About ‘The Hobbit?’

37 March 18th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Guillermo del Toro reaches out to TORn

38 August 18th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: ‘Hobbit’ Scripting Has Begun!

39 April 20, 2008 ~ TORn Message Board post by MrCere: Seems the riddle isn’t ours alone

40 April 20 2008 ~ TORn Message Board post by Corvar: Welcome mystery person!

41 April 20 2008 ~ TORn Message Board post by Elven: Riddles!! Oh My Stars!!

42 April 20 2008 ~ TORn Message Board post by wilsonst541: hmmm...

43 April 24th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: It’s Official! Del Toro to Direct Hobbit Films!

44 April 24th, 2008~ TORn Message Board post by Guillermo: In exchange for the Riddle-

45 August 20th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Scripting For “The Hobbit” Officially Begins!

46 August 20th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: Dream Team signs on for ‘Hobbit’

47 August 26th, 2008 ~ TORn News Article: MGM For Sale?

48 September 8th, 2009 ~ TORn News Article: Reuters: The Tolkien Trust, New Line Cinema and HarperCollins Settle ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lawsuit

49 September 25th, 2009 ~ TORn News Article: MGM Teetering on Bankruptcy

50 October 2nd, 2009 ~ TORn News Article: “Hobbit” stays with MGM

51 November 12th, 2009 ~ TORn News Article: MGM headed for sale

52 March 27th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Source says the MGM situation of "great importance" to two potential "Hobbit" films

53 April 3rd, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Guillermo chimes in with MGM / Hobbit delays

54 April 16th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Peter Jackson says 2nd ‘Hobbit’ script is finished

55 May 30th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Guillermo Del Toro departs "The Hobbit"

56 June 18th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Neill Blomkamp is the ‘Hobbit’ director – maybe

57 September 25th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Actor’s Unions Urge Actors not to Work on "The Hobbit"

58 September 26th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Peter Jackson Takes the Gloves Off

59 September 28th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Studios hit back at actors over ‘Hobbit’

60 September 30th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Breaking News: Fire at Wellington Film Studios

61 October 3rd, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Phillipa Boyens: Other Countries now bidding for "The Hobbit"

62 October 15th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: "The Hobbit" (finally) gets the Green Light!

63 October 15th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Press Release from New Line/Warner Bros.: OSCAR WINNER PETER JACKSON TO DIRECT "THE HOBBIT" IN TWO INSTALLMENTS

64 October 20th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: NewsTalkNB: Hobbit to Move Offshore

65 October 20th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: NZ March Reports – Hobbit already moving??

66 October 20th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: Variety: ‘The Hobbit’ boycott comes to an end

67 October 20th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: SAG Calls off Boycott

68 October 27th, 2010 ~ TORn News Article: BREAKING NEWS: The Hobbit Stays In New Zealand

69 January 6th, 2011 ~ TORn News Article: Warner Bros to Distribute Hobbit Worldwide

70 January 26th, 2011 ~ TORn News Article: Sir Peter Jackson’s stomach ulcer scare – UPDATE

71 July 30th, 2012 ~ TORn News Article: Update: Peter Jackson Confirms Third ‘Hobbit’ Film