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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 07:53 GMT 08:53 UK
Sony suspends two over fake critic
Hollow Man
Hollow Man received fake praise
Sony Pictures has reprimanded and suspended two of its advertising executives for their roles in the creation of a fake film critic.

The employees have been told to stay away from work for 30 days without pay. Sony would not confirm their names.

Thursday's action follows the disclosure on Monday by a Newsweek reporter that the critic David Manning, whose praise had adorned posters for many of Sony's latest releases, was an invention.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, two film-goers filed a damages suit against the company at LA's Superior Court.

They claim that Sony intentionally deceived consumers and violated professional business codes of conduct in using fabricated glowing reviews on four films.

Complaints

The mythical Manning called Heath Ledger the "year's hottest star!" in an advertisement for A Knight's Tale.

Manning also said of the just-released comedy, The Animal: "The producing team of Big Daddy has delivered another winner!"

Heath Ledger
Ledger touted as the one to watch

Other films to receive false praise in campaigns were Hollow Man and Vertical Limit.

Manning was described as a film critic for the Connecticut weekly newspaper the Ridgefield Press.

But the paper does not have a film critic and was unaware its name was being used.

In Connecticut, State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has also begun an investigation into the use of the imaginary Manning.

Blumenthal after said his office had received several complaints following the disclosure.

"We give this practice two thumbs down - it could be deceptive and misleading advertising," said Blumenthal.

The attorney general said his office would issue subpoenas if necessary to determine whether the complaints are valid.

'Accuracy'

If Sony is found to have deceived film-goers, the company could face substantial fines.

Newsweek reported that the critic Manning was dreamed up by an unidentified Sony marketing executive last July to enhance publicity for the studio's films.

The revelation about Manning came only days after Sony admitted it paid cinemas to run a preview of its film The Animal before hit movies.

This move was criticised for violating a long-standing industry rule of giving away trailers to cinemas.

Sony has now removed the manufactured quotes from future print advertisements and launched its own investigation into the incident.

A statement from Sony's worldwide marketing head Jeff Blake said new "checks and balances'' had been created to "ensure the accuracy of quotes contained in future advertising campaigns" and "prevent this from happening again".

See also:

05 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Disney and Sony lead worldwide takings
23 Mar 01 | Film
Oscar films win at box office
07 Jun 01 | Film
Inquiry into fake film critic
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