After a movie is no longer shown in theaters, what happens to it?

I assume it is kept on a hard drive. Is the hard drive returned to the publisher or is it kept by the theater?

Is there any way to obtain one of those?

  • I mean like the original "huge" Theater file not a downsized copy (for home use).
    – Frezzley
    Jan 30, 2017 at 8:09
  • 2
    I'm not sure about before satellite era. There is a code nowadays using which theater can access the movie and display it. They don't have it after movie had its run.
    – A J
    Jan 30, 2017 at 8:11
  • Highly related (if not dupe) - movies.stackexchange.com/questions/21754/…
    – Paulie_D
    Jan 30, 2017 at 12:55
  • 1
    Where do you see an answer to this in that??
    – cde
    Jan 30, 2017 at 22:28

1 Answer 1


With digital distribution, no physical media is shipped. The encrypted film is downloaded into a dedicated secure client, which receives a decryption key separately. It is never disclosed. The system then allows only x number of plays within y number of days, before deleting the file. The client hardware is leased and tamper resistant. The server can also require a network connection prior to showing the film, and can deny or delete the film at any given time.

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