Peter Jackson has adamantly denied that a third Hobbit film will be announced during Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego.
"There are no planned or surprise announcements involving a third film," studio reps told Variety. "The plan was always for two."
However, as Variety's Marc Graser points out, a third installment of The Hobbit was actually discussed when Guillermo del Toro still helmed the project, with studio execs envisioning it as a bridge of sorts to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Although such plans were ultimately scrapped when Del Toro left the project over production delays, Jackson managed to accrue significantly more footage than originally anticipated during the recent grueling 266-day shoot in New Zealand.
"[This] makes a third film feasible. Financially, adding a third film would help recoup those costs at megaplexes worldwide and boost profit margins. [Remember], Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy earned $2.9 billion worldwide at the box office alone and were supported with an expansive line of consumer products," Graser explained.
"But extending The Hobbit's run in theaters also would enable the studios to also boost a growing ancillary business Warners already has built around [the franchise], with a line of video games for various age groups, toys, collectibles and other merchandise produced by licensing partners like Lego and The Bridge Direct."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey depicts the adventures of a young Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug.
Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.
Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, they must first escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever...Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities.
A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know - a theme further explored in Lord of the Rings (LOTR).
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opens in theaters on December 14, 2012.