Sony Pictures pays for the brief but quotable career of fictional film critic David Manning.
LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The brief but quotable career of fictional film critic David Manning officially came to an end after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge signed off on a settlement of a class-action suit that will see Sony Pictures pay more than $1 million for luring moviegoers into buying tickets based on Manning's recommendations.
The suit, filed in 2001, accused Sony of unfair business practices, including the "intentional and systematic deception of consumers," by using fabricated quotes attributed to Manning. Manning, who didn't exist but was invented in Sony's marketing department, was identified as a critic for the Ridgefield Press, a Connecticut publication, and his quotes in praise of such films as "Hollow Man," "Vertical Limit," "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal" appeared in studio ads and promotional materials.
Attorney Norman Blumenthal, who represented the plaintiffs, told the Associated Press that the final settlement amounts to $1.5 million. However, a preliminary settlement order, dated Dec. 15, 2004, approved a court notice that announced a settlement fund of $750,000 plus $500,000 in attorney's fees, for a total of $1.25 million.
Despite repeated calls, Blumenthal could not be reached for further comment. Sony, which did not admit liability as part of the settlement, declined comment.
Under terms of the agreement, moviegoers who bought tickets to any of the four films between Aug. 3, 2000, and Oct. 31, 2001, could file a claim that could return them as much as $5 for each ticket purchased. Unclaimed portions of the settlement fund are to be earmarked for charity.
In the wake of Manning's unmasking in 2001, two Sony executives were disciplined with 30-day suspensions without pay.
The plaintiffs initially sought a $4.5 million fund. Sony filed motions to block the suit, but a California Court of Appeal decision last year rejected the studio's claim that it was exercising its right of free speech, saying the quotes represented commercial speech not protected by the First Amendment.