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I've noticed that advertisements for films and film-related merchandise in the USA that relate to films that are in theaters will almost always include the phrase "Only in Theaters" somewhere, often in smaller print at the bottom. There seems to be no difference as to studio - Disney does this as much as Sony who does this as much as Universal. What exactly is the purpose of this phrase? More specifically, is this a marketing phrase intended to steer potential customers to the theater (with the consequence of omitting the phrase being that customers are less likely to visit the theater or more likely to become frustrated trying to locate a copy), or is it a disclaimer or disclosure that is required by some regulation (with the consequence of omitting the phrase being that a customer has grounds to file a complaint with authorities when they cannot find the film in their local video shop or online)?

The fact that the phrase often appears in smaller type leads me to believe that its primary purpose is as a regulatory disclaimer rather than advertising material, but that seems an odd thing to require and it isn't clear exactly who is requiring it.

  • Do studios add this phrase because they believe (or have data indicating) that it will drive more theater ticket sales?
  • Is this simply a standard or traditional practice, something that people have come to expect as what professional film producers do?
  • Is there a specific law or regulation that requires studios to add an "only in theaters" disclaimer or disclosure in advertising materials?
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    discussed incessantly here ask.metafilter.com/41784/What-does-Only-In-Theatres-mean with no consensus but lots of interesting ideas. – rob Apr 28 at 11:25
  • How often are "straight-to-video" films advertised in the USA, and how likely is this to cause confusion with people going into stores to buy or rent the film? I know a certain website about how the Customer is Not Always Right has several stories about people not understanding that a film is "Only in Theatres" – Chronocidal Apr 28 at 14:47
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Actually, I can see why it would be both a required disclaimer and a marketing strategy. I very rarely go to the theater. I am more likely to wait for the “Only in Theaters” film to hit a streaming platform. Even if I have to pay for it. It has gotten to the point of my not renting Blueray discs or DVDs. Knowing when something is no longer “Only in Theaters is useful. There are also some other films that will stream on higher end platforms or in other markets. In which case, knowing it is only in theaters in your market can be useful. Then, there are the streaming originals. This would differentiates the “Only in Theaters” films from them. But, that’s just me.

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