Sony Pictures settles phony review case

— Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. has agreed to pay the state $326,000 for using fake reviews attributed to a Connecticut newspaper in promoting its films.

Sony also has agreed to stop fabricating movie reviews, and to stop using ads in which Sony employees pose as moviegoers praising films they have just seen, Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal said this week.

"These deceptive ads deserve two thumbs down � and now are getting a third from Sony itself," Blumenthal said.

"We're pleased to have the matter resolved," Susan Tick, a studio spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

The state launched an investigation last June after a reporter for Newsweek challenged the authenticity of movie blurbs in Sony print ads. The reviews, said to be from film critic "David Manning" of The Ridgefield Press, praised films including "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal."

Someone at Sony concocted glowing blurbs from the fictitious reviewer, Tick later admitted.

"What Sony did was like having a chef pose as a food critic and then give his own restaurant four stars," said James Fleming, the state's consumer protection commissioner.

Tick said the company ended the practice after management learned of it last summer.

The Ridgefield Press, a small weekly newspaper in Connecticut, was unaware that its name was being used.

Ridgefield's former First Selectman Sue Manning, who held the town's top office from 1987 to 1997, said a friend at Sony asked to use the name of her son in the ads.

Sony, 20th Century Fox, Artisan Entertainment and Universal Pictures later admitted using employees or actors in TV commercials purporting to feature testimonials from moviegoers.


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