Our sources are telling us that the always reliable (and great) film-on-disc website www.digitalbits.com is correct its Lord of The Rings Blu-ray news. Bill Hunt released the info in his column today. We had not heard a final decision had been reached but Hunt knows his stuff and can be trusted. This is both good and bad.

The good: Expect the extended-edition version of all three LOTR films in 2011. Warner will attempt to do these in (obviously) extremely high quality transfers that will fix minor items here and there and still likely put one movie on two discs rather than cram data to one disc and let quality suffer.

The bad: The wait for the EEs will be over but the wait for the Ultimate Box Set has probably been pushed back until post-“Hobbit” movies. The version of the films due this year will probably contain very little or no new additional content on the extras. When Peter Jackson officially took over as director of the pair of new films, any chance of him working on the ultimate edition of the film with new extras probably was postponed. It is clear from comments from actors and Jackson that there are more extras, waiting in the wings for the eventual, hi-def edition of these films and the special release has been planned from the beginning.

Additional comments: With the home video market suffering as it is, making an exact duplication transfer is much less expensive than adding additional value which studios no longer see as a good financial proposition.

Additional extras still seem to be a possibility but if there are any, they would likely be minor and a far cry from the full-blown material that was held in reserve. For consumers, this means not only the prospect of buying these films again on Blu-ray now but then buying them again in a few years with the rich historic and definitive extras. Still, the prospect of never getting the fabled “Ultimate Box Set” seems even worse.

And, getting the EEs on Blu-ray, extras or not, will be a popular choice for many of our readers and many consumers besides.

If the 3D aspect of “The Hobbit” is beloved, we will likely see the whole LOTR saga redone in a 3D home version and released on its own as well. Jackson has been widely reported to have done a 10-minute segment of King Kong into a converted 3D with very nice (but expensive) results. If consumers lose interest in the LOTR on home disc, then clearly no further editions would make financial sense. That seems unlikely.

Here, word-for-word is what Hunt said on the topic:

“What’s more, our sources are NOW telling us that WHV (Warner Home Video) (and their now in-house New Line label) is ALSO planning to release Peter Jackson’s long-awaited The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Extended Editions on Blu-ray sometime this year. No kidding. We suspect that, now that The Hobbit films are finally about to begin filming, the studio is eager to get more product on store shelves to keep the franchise fresh in the minds of fans. The Extended Rings films on BD are the obvious choice for this year. Farther down the line, of course, there will be the obvious Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D versions of The Hobbit films, and sooner or later an “ultimate” box set of all the films with all new extras custom created by Jackson. Anyway, our sources tell us to expect some kind of official news on all this (re: Rings: Extended and Kubrick) from the studio in the next several weeks. “