Peter Jackson hops aboard ‘Hobbit’

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have reached agreement to make J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” a prequel to the blockbuster trilogy “The Lord of the Rings.”

“I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line,” Jackson said in a statement. “We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle Earth.”

Jackson, who will be executive producer, and New Line had been embroiled in an accounting dispute after the phenomenal success of “Rings.” Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer stepped in to help the two sides reach a deal.

MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute two films, “The Hobbit” and a sequel to it. New Line will distribute in North America and MGM will distribute internationally.

The two “Hobbit” films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with pre-production beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with “The Hobbit” to be released in 2010 and the sequel the following year.

A director has not been chosen.