The original July 18, 2014 release date (the same day that Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is currently scheduled) never made sense financially, in relation to WETA’s VFX schedule, or in terms of tradition. And two huge blockbusters were never going to go head-to-head like that. As an added benefit this date change frees up plenty of high frame rate screens for Days of Future Past if Bryan Singer follows through on all the hints and indeed makes it at 48 or 60 fps.
Moving to December is simply the smart thing to do: December blockbusters almost invariably have miniscule competition for months after they debut, thereby allowing for stratospheric grosses (see: Avatar, Titanic, Return of the King). Late summer is a time at which audiences often start becoming fatigued of all the visual effects and spectacle, especially in terms of epic sci-fi, action, superhero and fantasy, and the grosses rarely stretch much higher than a billion even for the most highly anticipated event pictures. By December, however, and after an August-November gap in epic escapism, audiences are ravenous for movies like The Hobbit.
I’m glad that Peter Jackson, MGM and Warner Bros. will reveal the final epic installment of the trilogy where it was always meant to be: December. It just wouldn’t have felt right at any other time.