Director Peter Jackson announced Monday that The Hobbit, the forthcoming prequel to his massively successful Lord of the Rings series, will be split into three films instead of the planned two. The first installation, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released on Dec. 14; the second film, There and Back Again, is due out in December 2013; and sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the third film will be released in summer 2014. Jackson's plan to split the film into three was met with more than a little skepticism, because "as Jackson has acknowledged, The Hobbit is a slender story compared with the far more sprawling and complex Lord of the Rings trilogy," says Josh Rottenberg at Entertainment Weekly. Is Jackson trying to extend the story of hobbit Bilbo Baggins just to generate some extra box-office cash?

Yes. Jackson is selling out: J.R.R. Tolkien's three Lord of the Rings books amount to 1,241 pages of story, says Brian Solomon at Forbes. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a measly 304 pages. Each individual Lord of the Rings book is longer than The Hobbit, "yet they each only received a single film treatment." The Hobbit trilogy will no doubt be big at the box office, but this is just another example of "the illogical but inevitable conclusion of Hollywood's never-ending quest for more dollars, at the expense of story and original artistic intent."
"The Hobbit as a trilogy? Hollywood has jumped the shark" 

But Jackson is using more than just the one book: Sure, a single 304-page book seems like scant source material for three feature-length films, says Jordan Zakarin at The Hollywood Reporter. But Jackson has said that he'll fill in the films with information that Tolkien "wrote later and put in an appendix at the end of the third LOTR book, The Return of the King." He even teased at Comic Con earlier this month "that he had shot plenty of extra footage," so not to worry.
"Third Hobbit film confirmed" 

At the very least, this could boost New Zealand's film industry: The cash injection from making another Hobbit movie would "mean more jobs in the film industry for New Zealanders, and more money for the studio to spend on future projects," says Robert Snow at Professionally Incoherent. And if the films are a critical success, this could even persuade "a studio to tackle one of Tolkien's more esoteric works, like The Silmarillion."
"The pros and cons of making The Hobbit into a trilogy"