We recently reported that – despite rumors stating otherwise – The Hobbit is still on track for its December 2011 and December 2012 release dates.

Of course, it didn’t take a HUGE leap of logic to figure out that if The Hobbit was indeed going to be in theaters come December 2011, it would need to get underway REAL soon, as the principal shoot alone was going to take around 14 months. 

Well, now we have word that The Hobbit is indeed slated to start shooting this June in New Zealand – of course there is still that pesky financial crisis over at MGM to clean up first…

Word of The Hobbit‘s production start date was uttered by Production Weekly, with the good folks over at Coming Soon spreading the word to us. Again, there is still the question of MGM straightening out their current financial troubles, but since we know that New Line/Warner Bros. is helping to carry some of the financial burden until MGM gets back on its feet (or sells the property entirely), maybe that June start date isn’t impossible?

One thing that is for sure: there’s going to be nothing to shoot if they don’t get a cast together! We know that Ian McKellen will return as Gandalf – although apparently he’s the only actor from Lord of the Rings confirmed to be returning. Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett and Andy “Gollum” Serkis – whose characters all appear in The Hobbit storyline – are apparently not locked in for the next film(s).

“I am ready – now where is this Hobbit?!”

If this June start date is going to truly happen, we’ll need to start hearing some casting news ASAP – most notably, the name of the actor who will play the titular character, Bilbo Baggins.

Stay tuned for more news on The Hobbit cast, as it’s sure to come fast and furious at us.

Sources: Production Weekly via Coming Soon