Here's everything that is impeding the Hobbit from getting to theatres:
1) Two years after the release of Return of the King, Jackson filed a suit against New Line, claiming that he lost merchandising money from Fellowship of the Ring. He didn't agree to settle on any price but had New Line audited to see if they owed him anything outstanding. Jackson also didn't think this was going to be a huge deal when it happened, as it was a relatively small suit. However, Robert Shaye, New Line's co-founder, said he was insulted by the suit and said that Jackson would never make a movie for New Line again because he was greedy. After New Line made a string of flops Shaye apologized, saying that he respects Jackson as a director and would love to have him involved in the Hobbit in some way. Sure, he'll apologize publicly, but the bottom line is that tensions with Jackson and New Line are high.
2) The Hobbit is an enormous production. Each Lord of the Rings film was given approx. $94 million for everything it would need- each Hobbit film (there will be two) is getting $150 mil.
3) Nothing can get green lighted until the MGM issue is resolved. The issue being $7 billion in debt.
4) Nobody seems to want to direct it. Guillermo del Toro was initially signed on, but because of all the messiness and uncertainty with MGM, he left as director in May 2010 (before even agreeing to direct, del Toro expressed how much he didn't want to do it. He said he 'didn't like hobbits or dragons or swords' or something stupid like that). Jackson originally said he never wanted to direct the films because he felt he'd have to compete with LOTR, but now that there's no director, he is in negotiations to take up that job in addition to producing it (either way, he basically would have been directing, as he'd have complete control over everything).
Everything seemed to get more and more ludicrous as time went on. The most recent development is what we in the film business call [cracks knuckles] 'union woes'. The International Federation of Actors (FIA), which represents over 100 international unions including SAG, AFTRA, and the UK Actors Guild, has advised New Zealand actors not to accept work on The Hobbit because the makers of the film have 'refused to enter union negotiations'. Essentially, actors are on strike against The Hobbit.
*it's ridiculous, though, because if the actor did accept work for the movie, he'd get kicked out of his union. It's their way or the highway, and it's Fascist.
Recently, Jackson responded to the FIA, saying that a lot of the actors they get in New Zealand are non-union, and that FIA is interpreting this as him hiring non-union actors because he doesn't want to honor the contracts of union actors. He said that he has no problem with the unions, as he is a member of the Directors, Producers, and Writers Guild. His response is pretty lengthy- but I recommend you read it because it's interesting.
The reason it's interesting is because Jackson is doing something that nobody seems to have done, or even wanted to do in the past two years- defend The Hobbit. He's pissed because of all the setbacks, and he should be. He goes on about how it's all about money, and that this 'actor boycott' comes from a very small percentage of dissenters. He's a good filmmaker because he'll stand by a project no matter what. The way I see it is that everybody is being a child over this movie, and Jackson is stepping in as the adult. He may not have initially wanted to direct but I think that this union business may have pushed him over the edge.
So, that's what's going on with The Hobbit. Personally, I want this movie to be made because the LOTR movies are some of the best films ever made, and I want to see more. I've never read The Hobbit, nor have I read LOTR all the way through (I made it to the middle of the second book and gave up because I was 15 and had better things to do), but I know the story is good and the foundation is solid for some serious movies, and I'm confused and frustrated that these stupid unions and studios are fighting so viciously over something that will not only be awesome if it's done right, but make them a big pile of money. Jackson is doing the right thing by responding to the FIA so quickly (two days)- he's assuring people that the two years spent on this movie won't be wasted (they've got everything designed and written out, basically all they need is a greenlight and a director and to be pistol-whipped) and the four years to come will be used to make the movie as good as it can be. I'd rather have a jolly New Zealand man tell me that with a smile on his face (and shire music playing in the background) than have some fat studio executive say that the end is near [lightning strike].
I know there's nothing I can do about this. It's entirely possible that the movie will be scrapped, because that's just Hollywood. I can't help but have faith, though. Weird.