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"David Manning" was a fictitious film critic, created by a marketing executive working for Sony Corporation around July 2000 to give consistently good reviews for releases from Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures. Several blurbs posted under the name "David Manning" were written for the medieval action/drama A Knight's Tale (citing Heath Ledger as "this year's hottest new star!") and Rob Schneider's comedy The Animal ("Another winner!"),[1] the latter of which generally received very poor reviews by real critics.

Details

David Manning was named after a friend of Matthew Cramer, the Sony marketing executive responsible for the insertions. Manning was credited to the Ridgefield Press, a small Connecticut weekly. During an investigation into Manning's quotes, Newsweek reporter John Horn discovered that the newspaper had never heard of him. Horn disclosed the truth about Manning in a June 2001 article in Newsweek,[1] which emerged at around the same time as an announcement that Sony had used employees posing as moviegoers in television commercials to praise Mel Gibson's The Patriot. These occurrences, in tandem, raised questions and controversy about ethics in movie marketing practices.

On the June 10, 2001 episode of Le Show, host Harry Shearer conducted an in-studio interview with David Manning. The voice of Manning was provided by a computer voice synthesizer.[2]

Some time after news of the hoax became widespread, actor Bryan Cranston, then a lead in the US television sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, took out a print advertisement in entertainment trade papers recommending his work to Emmy Awards voters. The ad featured positive comments from Mr. Manning as a joke.

On August 3, 2005, Sony made an out-of-court settlement[3] and agreed to refund $5 each to dissatisfied customers who saw Hollow Man, The Animal, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, or Vertical Limit in American theatres, under the impression that it would be a great movie due to Manning's reviews.

References

  1. ^ a b John Horn. "The Reviewer Who Wasn't There." Newsweek web exclusive. June 2, 2001.
  2. ^ Shearer, Harry (June 10, 2001). "le Show". HarryShearer.com. http://media.harryshearer.com/?ProgramID=128. Retrieved January 5, 2009.  
  3. ^ "Sony to pay $1.5m for film hoax," Irish Independent, August 5, 2005.

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