The release dates were originally publicized to be December 2011 and 2012 with filming set to start around March of 2010. However, delays due to finalizing the script, MGM’s financial woes, finding a new director after Guillermo Del Toro stepped down, and an actor’s union boycott, have pushed the release dates to 2012 and 2013. The films were officially ‘greenlit’ (given the go-ahead to start spending money on things like sets, locations and actors)  on October 15, 2010 with filming set to begin in February, 2011.

Useful Links:
Hobbit ‘greenlight’ announcement


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