General News

Sony Reaches Settlement Over Fake Critic

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Aug 04, 2005 | 10:59am EDT

Hollywood studio Sony-TriStar has reached a $1.5 million settlement over accusations it advertised movies using quotes from a fabricated film critic.

In 2001, billboards and TV commercials featured sound bites praising the studio's movies from reviewer David Manning of The Ridgefield Press--but the journalist was invented by marketing staff at Sony-TriStar.

Quotes attributed to Manning were used to promote Hollow Man, A Knight's Tale, The Patriot, The Animal and Vertical Limit--but film fans can now demand a refund for cinema tickets purchased for these movies.

Sony-TriStar refused to admit liability but offered the settlement last year in a bid to avoid a lengthy and costly court case. The agreement was finalized Aug. 2 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl.

Manning supposedly called Heath Ledger "this year's hottest new star" for his lead role in A Knight's Tale, and described Hollow Man as "one hell of a scary ride."

The Ridgefield Press, a local paper in Connecticut, says it has never employed someone named David Manning, and Sony-TriStar suspended two employees following an internal enquiry.

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Meanwhile, Sony-TriStar, the studio behind The Mask of Zorro, is being sued by a film company who wants the right to make their own Zorro movie.

Sobini Films and its subsidiary Maroda Inc. filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Aug. 2.

They want to make a film based on the 1919 Johnston McCulley book The Curse of Capistrano, for which they claim to have acquired the rights in 2000.

However, according to Sobini's lawyer Bruce Isaacs, the company has been unable to proceed with their movie after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Sony, in which the studio says it owns exclusive rights to any films and TV shows based on the Zorro character.

Isaacs says, "Once Sony sent us that letter, it's kind of like the kiss of death. What we're asking the court to declare is that Sony-TriStar does not have exclusive rights to Zorro, whether it be via the copyright road or via the trademark road."

Sobini also want the court to rule Sony cannot copyright Zorro's look of a black cape, mask, hat and sword. A sequel to The Mask of Zorro, The Legend of Zorro, is due for release later this year.

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