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Motion picture studio lies and deceptions
Back in 2001, Sony Pictures admitted that two fans
seen giving glowing reviews in a television advertisement
for their film The Patriot, were not fans at all,
but were employees of the company. Sony has since also
conceded that it has used made-up quotes by phony movie
critics for other films. Worse yet, a spokeswoman for
Sony said such marketing ploys were common throughout
the movie industry. "It's terribly wrong, I acknowledge
that," said Sony's Susan Tick, "But the fact that it's
not only Sony and everybody is acknowledging that those
testimonial ads tend to be actors anyway."
In 2005, Sony Pictures Entertainment paid over $1,000,000
(one million U.S. dollars) to settle a class-action
lawsuit accusing the studio of citing a fake movie
critic in ads for several films. The lawsuit,
originally filed by California moviegoers, claimed
the ads lured the plaintiffs into seeing A Knight's Tale
with false statements made by a fictional film
critic named David Manning. In one ad for the
action-comedy, a critic identified as "David Manning
of The Ridgefield Press" was quoted as calling
star Heath Ledger "this year's hottest new star!" In
an ad for The Animal, Manning was quoted as
declaring, "The producing team of Big Daddy has
delivered another winner!" 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 the fake movie
critic Manning. Manning 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
While the Ridgefield Press is an actual small
weekly newspaper in Connecticut, they never
had a movie critic named David Manning.
Sony Pictures claims its lies are protected by the First Amendment
In the above case, Sony claimed that it was exercising
its right of free speech, saying the quotes were
protected by the First Amendment.
Thankfully the courts saw through this argument and
found that the quotes represented commercial speech
not protected by the First Amendment.
After the dispute was made public, the studio temporarily
suspended two executives and promised to monitor its
publicity and advertising more closely.
Creative bookkeeping at Hollywood movie studios
While it's certainly true that motion picture studios
have never been known for their candor and honesty,
regularly lying about their stars, and boxoffice
receipts, the most flagrant abuse of the public
trust by studios has to be the "creative bookkeeping"
they often use to ensure their pictures don't show
a profit. This practice may seem counterproductive
to the general public accustomed to Enron-type
overstatements of profits, but in the case of the
studios, this practice is employed to prevent actors,
directors, and producers from receiving a piece of
the profit's a film generates. Now familiar with
this ruse, the more powerful actors and directors
negotiate to receive a certain percentage of the
boxoffice gross, not profits.
Motion picture studios have a history of lying
to the public in order to get you to part with
your money. When you see a movie review quote
in an ad that seems too good to be true, it just
Quotes in movie ads attributed to major critics
are usually accurate. There have been a few
notable exceptions, but, by and large, the studios
avoid misquoting the leading critics. So, if you
have a favorite movie critic that you trust,
always check his or her review of the film before
you throw your hard-earned money away, let alone
a couple hours of your valuable time.
Caveat emptor when it comes to those ubiquitous
motion picture ads.
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This page was last updated January 1, 2012. |