So things appear to be looking up for the much-troubled production of The Hobbit. But wait! There’s time for one more bump in the road: Reports have come in that Peter Jackson’s miniatures workshop in New Zealand has burned to the ground. The fire broke out on Friday and it apparently took 50 firefighters three hours to put out the blaze.

This is the same workshop (one of the few of its kind in the world) that was used for the miniatures special effects work done for both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Jackson’s King Kong remake. It would have been the one utilized for The Hobbit but a burnt building is all Jackson has left. Presumably it will be rebuilt but this throws more unforeseeable trouble at The Hobbit that it just doesn’t need.

In addition to all this Hobbit news, both good and bad, there’s also reports surfacing about the films being in 3D (you can decide for yourself whether that falls into the “good” or “bad” category). This has been rumored before and apparently those rumors were squashed when at Comic-Con it was said that The Hobbit was more intimate than the Lord of the Rings trilogy and thus would stay in 2D.

However, after the success of 3D movies like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans (to name but a few) it appears The Hobbit will be taking the leap into that third dimension after all. The New York Times reports the news from one person who has been briefed on the plans, although it’s noted that since the source is anonymous that nothing is certain on The Hobbit 3D front. If it does turn out to be true we can expect official word pretty soon as I imagine (read: hope to hell) Jackson and Co. would want to shoot the film in 3D rather than convert it in post-production.

Whenever The Hobbit officially sets sail, it is expected that both parts (which are planned to be shot back-to-back a la LOTR) will come to a whopping cost of $500 million to produce. For comparison the Lord of the Rings trilogy cost less than $300 million (not including marketing) to make and that had one more movie than The Hobbit will have. But I’m sure when all is said and done it will make its money back (and then some!), not just because it has the massively popular LOTR to help its reputation and appeal but also that it’s based on a book beloved by readers of all ages. And of course there’s the overpriced 3D tickets.

Could we see The Hobbit break Avatar‘s worldwide box office record? Even for the prequel tale of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins that seems like a tough challenge. But for all it has going for it, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a new all-time box office record holder after the release of The Hobbit.

Stay tuned to Screen Rant to find out if The Hobbit gets the greenlight soon, if the latest 3D rumors are true and of course the much-awaited official casting announcements (Martin Freeman appears to be a frontrunner for the coveted role of Bilbo).

If all goes to plan we will see Part 1 of The Hobbit hit theaters (possibly in 3D) on December 19th, 2012, with Part 2 following a year later in December, 2013.

Sources: LA Times, NY Times and Deadline

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