(UPDATE) We were contacted by Warner Bros who released the following statement in regards to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey release date.
"Contrary to inaccurate reports - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is being released on December 14, 2012" - Dan Fellman, President, Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates can make or break a movie. Studios congregate in their respective war rooms and strategize for the ideal release date for their particular films. Chinese food is ordered, profanities are bounced around the room, and grown men cry, until a decision is agreed upon. Not uncommon after such trials and tribulations the studio turns around and changes the release dates for one reason or another. They call it Hollyweird for a reason.
For The Brothers Warner in 2008 it was the WGA strike and the success of the previous Harry Potter film during the summer movie season, their new found love-affair with the mid/late July slot coming off the hugeness that was The Dark Knight (You might have heard about it) and need to fill in a release-date pot hole that allowed for the brain trust to move Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince from November 21st, 2008 to Summer 2009. When a big tentpole such as Potter is moved, other films from the same studio also have to be shuffled around. In addition, rival studios may react to the check with a checkmate of their own.
According to what we're hearing, like Warner Bros might be playing a game of chess once again.
Things in The Shire aren't going according to schedule for Peter Jackson, from what we hear in the rumor mill, while attempting the almost impossible task of filming The Hobbit and getting it out on time. Jackson has opened up discussion with the brass at WB regarding the first of the two-movie Lord of the Rings prequel adaptations, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey not being ready in time the December 14th, 2012 release date. Jackson isn't comfortable with rushing the film out if it's not to his liking. Powers That Be are very receptive to the director's predicament. They want to be in the Peter J. business for a long time, so they are seriously contemplating making some adjustments.
This is where Superman comes in. One scenario we're hearing involves the studio moving The Man of Steel, the Christopher Nolan-"Godfathered" Superman revival with Zack Snyder wearing the director cap (and judging by Twitter sporting a 'stache that would make Ron Burgundy jealous) into that Christmas '12 slot. We've been told that production is flying as fast as the Big Blue himself with shooting to wrap early February, and scenes already being edited and sent out to various post-production houses as I type this. Jeff Robinov, who currently wears the crown as "King of the WB," has long thought the Last Son of Krypton could succeed while the film climate is about running into multiplexes for the heat instead of the AC and, if you'll remember originally slated Henry Cavill's freshman foray into fighting for truth, justice and the American way for December 2012 while the entire Hobbit production was up in the air before Jackson stepped in to save it.
If the above angle comes into play that would push The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to December of 2013 and The Hobbit: There & Back Again to December 2014. In that case, WB gets their Superman epic out before the 2013 deadline where they'd have to pay up extra dough to the Siegel/Shuster estates (and for once, beat Marvel to the punch with putting a big superhero blockbuster out for the Holiday season instead of the standard operating procedure of summer with their November 2013 release of Thor 2) and Jackson gets an extra year to do his magic in Middle Earth again. It'd also be a great WB/DC one-two punch along with The Dark Knight Rises to help fans get the bad taste of Green Lantern out of their mouths quicker.
Granted, there's still the matter of that Hobbit teaser said to be in front of something this Christmas (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows or, as Elijah Wood speculated, The Adventures of Tintin). You’d see a release date slapped on a 90-second peak at Hobbit and some of you might immediately cry foul on this report. Remember what we said about Half-Blood Prince, fellas. Initial trailers for that sported its original November '08 release date even as WB heads already knew it was moving.