At a press conference backstage at Comic-Con, Peter Jackson revealed that he wants not only to get permission for a few weeks of reshoots next year for what could be two long "Hobbit" films–supplemented with darker material from JRR Tolkien's appendices– but they could wind up as three.
UPDATE: Well, Warner/New Line is letting the filmmaker have his way. Jackson confirmed in a Monday Facebook entry (excerpted below) that he will deliver three films. (UPDATE: More details on that deal are here.) The first two have wrapped and will arrive at mid-December 2012 and 2013; the third won't arrive, in all likehihood, until summer 2014:
"The richness of the story of , as well as some of the related material in the appendices of "The Lord of the Rings," allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth. So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of 'The Hobbit' films, I'd like to announce that two films will become three.
"There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of 'The Hobbit,'" he said at Comic-Con. "We’ve used some of that so far, and just in the last few weeks, as we’ve been wrapping up the shooting and thinking about the shape of the story, Philippa, Fran and I have been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting." (Tolkien's last work, "The Silmarillion," is off limits and unlikely to be released by the disgruntled Tolkien estate.)
While "The Hobbit" was written for a younger audience than "The Lord of the Rings," Jackson is using the same tone as the trilogy so that they can run together consistently, he said: "A lot of the comedy and the charm and the fairytale quality of "The Hobbit" comes from the characters. You are dealing with Bilbo Baggins, who is a little more reluctant, possibly, to go on an adventure than Frodo was. You’re dealing with dwarves who have a personality and camaraderie, all of their own."