BREAKING… Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy adventure The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn’t open in North American movie theaters until December 14th. But I’ve learned that tickets are going on sale more than a month in advance. The date is this Wednesday, November 7th, online and in theaters across North America at 12:00 PM Eastern Time. ”We’re expecting a big result as we start the journey for all 3 films,” a Warner Bros exec tells me. To ‘event-ize’ the release, moviegoers will be able to return to Middle-earth at marathon screenings of Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy in Extended Cut editions on Saturday, December 8th, and Sunday December 9th. Tickets for these all-day events also will go on sale online and in theaters throughout the U.S. at Noon ET on Wednesday November 7th.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be followed by the second film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug releasing December 13, 2013, and the third film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again slated for July 18, 2014. All 3 films are productions of New Line Cinema and MGM Pictures, with New Line managing production and Warner Bros Pictures handling worldwide theatrical distribution. Select international territories as well as all international television distribution is being handled by MGM. Under Jackson’s direction, The Hobbit Trilogy has been shot in 3D 48 frames-per-second and will be released in High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D), other 3D formats, IMAX and 2D. These adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels tell the continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before The Lord Of The Rings, which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen and won the Best Picture Oscar for The Return of the King.

Several of the characters return but new ones also are introduced as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows title character Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) who joins the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen returning as the character) and 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Also reprising their roles from The Lord Of The Rings in The Hobbit are: Cate Blanchett as  Galadriel; Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The screenplay for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro. Jackson is also producing together with longtime partner Fran Walsh plus Carolynne Cunningham and Zane Weiner. Executive producers include former Warner Brothers co-chairman Alan Horn and Jackson’s longtime manager Ken Kamins.

Production has taken place at Jackson’s own facilities in Miramar, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand. Among the creative behind-the-scenes team returning to Jackson’s crew are director of photography Andrew Lesnie, production designer Dan Hennah, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, composer Howard Shore and make-up and hair designer Peter King. The film is edited by Jabez Olssen. The costumes are designed by Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor and Bob Buck. Taylor is also overseeing the design and production of weaponry, armor and prosthetics which are once again being made by the award-winning Weta Workshop. Weta Digital take on the visual effects for the films, led by the film’s visual effects supervisor, Joe Letteri. Post production is taking place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.

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