So, I kinda always just assumed that splitting such a short book into three films was a money-grubbing move, and frankly, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if that was at least part of the reason that The Hobbit was split into three movies. But I was wondering... Does anybody know of an alternate (or additional/more in-depth) explanation for why Peter Jackson decided to split The Hobbit into three movies?
Going back into the production history, as far back as 2006, MGM and Jackson wanted to make it a three part franchise in some way. According to Wikipedia:
The project had been envisaged as two parts since 2006, but the proposed contents of the parts changed during development. MGM expressed interest in a second film in 2006, set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Jackson concurred, stating that "one of the drawbacks of The Hobbit is its relatively light weight compared to [Lord of the Rings]... There's a lot of sections in which a character like Gandalf disappears for a while. – he references going off to meet with the White Council, who are actually characters like Galadriel and Saruman and people that we see in Lord of the Rings. He mysteriously vanishes for a while and then comes back, but we don't really know what goes on." Jackson was also interested in showing Gollum's journey to Mordor and Aragorn setting a watch on the Shire.
Between 2006 and Jackson coming on in 2010, Guillermo del Toro was tapped to direct and handle the screen play. Overall he felt the story should only draw on what was provided in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but had a bit of a struggle figuring out where to split the story into two films, even going so far as to state they would just film everything in a single, briskly paced film if nothing worked to split it in two. Del Toro was definitely against having some kind of "bridge film", quite strongly in fact. He was quoted in the same Wikipedia article:
when you lay out the cards fro [sic] the story beats contained within the book (before even considering any apendix [sic] material) the work is enormous and encompasses more than one film. That's why we are thinking of the two instalments as parts of a single narrative. That's why I keep putting down the use of a "bridge" film (posited initially). I think the concept as such is not relevant any more. I believe that the narrative and characters are rich enough to fit in two films.
However, del Toro would depart form production in 2010 due to delays, and Jackson would soon be tapped to come back and direct The Hobbit.
After filming wrapped on the original two film franchise, Jackson confirmed it would be fleshed out into a three film franchise, using appendices Tokein wrote to expand the story of Middle Earth.
Overall I wouldn't say it was completely a decision based on making more money, but one that quite a few people did want to happen for actual story purposes in one way or another.