There was a huge window of time between when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and when he much later finished The LOTRs. As someone mentioned, The Hobbit is clearly more oriented towards reading to children -- LOTRs is dark.... VERY dark! While one SEEMS a prequel to the other, they clearly have foundations in two different genres, albeit they both conveniently fall into the fantasy genre. I doubt that Tolkien had a clue about The LOTRs while he was writing The Hobbit -- maybe he addressed this at some point, but when you read them closely, even if he said it had been all planned out, I'd take that with a grain of salt.
Yes, the two movies are coming, very shrewd of the producers to somehow stretch The Hobbit into two films where they can collect twice the money. Oh, well -- my biggest issue is that we'll have to WAIT on Part II until they've squeezed all the cash they can from Part I. But I'm pleased that this much needed project is finally going to see completion.
Actually, it's rumored that Peter Jackson fell out on this one but the producers are forging ahead -- here's some information:
I've read The Hobbit twice and LOTRs three times. Really just superb work and, like someone else said, I can hardly wait for The Hobbit Film -- but I WILL wait until ALL of it is available before attempting to view! And when I buy it, THIS TIME, I'm going to wait for the so-called "special extended edition" and not waste money like I did when I ended up buying the entire The LOTRs twice.
definitely so, the hobbit is the premise to LOTR it's the beginnings of the story. it may not be technically necessary to reading the LOTR i.e. you can read the LOTR without needing to read the hobbit and understand everything in the LOTR story line without being confused or feeling like you just entered a conversation halfway and don't quite know everything is going on. STILL... it should be read it gives a background into how the ring came into the possession of bilbo baggins which later then gets passed to frodo. and for those who want even more background into middle-earth the origins of the ring, sauron, elves, dwarves, humans, ect. you should definitely check out the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, in my opinion the very best two of the histories of middle-earth and is itself a novel in it's own right!
if you want to get accurate information on the movies you need to go to theonering.net they post things daily and work with the hobbit crew. imdb.com only shows what the actors/producers are doing and some of their works, if you want to know exactly the news of the cast and crew and what they are up to doing/filming in new zealand then this is the website to check out. i swear on the LOTR itself.
The only thing about theonering.net is that they run it like a pack of nazis, never allowing the slightest criticism to stand. I have found You Tube [reporters interviewing Jackson in the hot seat] and other sites much more valuable in producing the *real* story behind some of these production events than the site which is run by rabid fans of the books/films.
theonering.net simply regurgitates all the film public relations blather.