The Ellipsis in the Title of Tarantino’s New Film Is Explained … Sort Of

Even if you don’t go see the new Quentin Tarantino film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, you’ve probably noticed commercials and other promotional materials for this movie industry tale set in 1969. But what exactly is the title?

On the big screen, the film is very clearly “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” But as eagle-eyed grammarians here at The Times and elsewhere have pointed out, the ellipsis shifts when it comes to the marketing. In billboards, bus ads and trailers, it’s “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood.”

For a film rife with carefully thought-out callbacks to beloved titles in movie history (there’s even an extended sequence from “The Great Escape”), it seems like a surprising oversight. As it turns out, it’s not an oversight at all.

I asked the distributor, Sony, which version was correct, and the answer was, essentially, both. The studio calls it “a creative decision” with the ellipsis placement depending on the context. That’s about all it will say other than confirming that for review purposes, the ellipsis goes before “in.”

[Read A.O. Scott’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” review.]

If it were up to us, we’d eliminate the ellipsis altogether. The title reminds a lot of film fans of the Sergio Leone productions “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “Once Upon a Time in America.” And that’s fitting because in Tarantino’s movie, DiCaprio’s character, an actor named Rick Dalton, is wooed to star in spaghetti westerns as a way to revive his career.

But notice what’s missing from the Italian movies? That’s right. There’s no ellipsis.

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