Studio reps dismiss rumor of additional feature

Hours into Comic-Con, one rumor kept circulating around San Diego: that Peter Jackson was going to announce a third “Hobbit” film during Warner Bros.’ Saturday panel for the fantasy pics.

But Jackson isn’t getting ready to give auds more “Hobbit,” studio spokespeople told Variety, adding that there are “no planned or surprise announcements” involving a third film. “The plan was always for two.”

Still adding more pics wouldn’t be unusual.

WB extended its “Harry Potter” franchise to eight films, even though seven books were published. Summit is ending the “Twilight” franchise with a “Part 2.” And Lionsgate recently announced a fourth “Hunger Games” film

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” bows Dec. 14, and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” on Dec. 13, 2013.

Warner Bros. and co-producers New Line and MGM have a lot riding on the two 3D films, which Jackson lensed back-to-back in New Zealand for around $500 million.

And sources tell Variety that Jackson wound up with more footage than expected during their 266-day shoot in New Zealand, making a third film feasible. Lensing wrapped July 6, with Jackson posting on his Facebook page: “Next stop, the cutting room. Oh, and Comic-Con!”

Financially, adding a third film would help recoup those costs at megaplexes worldwide and boost profit margins. But extending “The Hobbit’s” run in theaters also would enable the studios to also boost a growing ancillary business Warners already has built around “The Hobbit,” with a line of videogames for various age groups, toys, collectibles and other merchandise produced by licensing partners like Lego and The Bridge Direct — whose “Hobbit” wares are on display on the show floor of the San Diego Convention Center this week.

Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy earned $2.9 billion worldwide at the box office alone and were supported with an expansive line of consumer products.

When the films were first announced, with Guillermo del Toro at the helm, there had been discussions of a third pic that would serve as a bridge into “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Such plans were scrapped when Del Toro left the project over production delays. Del Toro co-wrote “The Hobbit” screenplays with Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. Jackson also is executive producing “The Hobbit” films with Walsh.

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