The sudden and quite expected sorta-shuttering of New Line opened the door for a dollop of doubt as to whether The Hobbit was going to happen – with Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson or anyone directing. Fortunately, studios, even dead ones, still like making money, so the two-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings will happen, and del Toro will direct for the two-headed New Line/MGM beast.

On one hand, I’m incredibly excited to see del Toro bring his fevered imagination to Jackson’s version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe; on the other, I hate to think of him being tied down for the next four years in New Zealand. There’s no production start date yet, but I doubt he’ll have time to squeeze in Saturn and the End of Days or the much-hoped-for Lovecraft adaptation, At the Mountains of Madness. Then again, how do you say no to Peter Jackson? The answer: you don’t (unless he gets handsy).

We’ve known for a while (I think) that the second part of The Hobbit will deal with the sixty-year period leading up to The Fellowship of the Ring, which could be kinda tricky in terms of anticlimax. But between del Toro, Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, they should be able to figure that out.

Expect to see part one of The Hobbit in theaters by late 2011.