L.A. movie-goers file lawsuit against Sony
June 10, 2001 10:44 AM   Subscribe

L.A. movie-goers file lawsuit against Sony -- Not that inventing movie critics is a Good Thing (tm), but gimme a break. Does anyone really see movies based on what some obscure (and apparently fictitious) critic says?
posted by shauna (18 comments total)
yes. but they live their lives how commercials tell them too.

they get what they deserve.
posted by jcterminal at 10:46 AM on June 10, 2001

it is all a vast right and left wing conspiracy. See the post on music, just below...a world-wide meeting of Big Commercial Capitalists! Take up whittling! if you do not know what that is, you can see how the Large Forces have kept you in Darkness and Ignorance.
posted by Postroad at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2001

it's just america...

they made me waste $9.50!! punitive damages should be involved!!
posted by o2b at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2001

Sheesh...of all the non-stories I've seen lately, this one tops them all. I don't know a single person who has EVER gone to see a movie because of a blurb ("the hit of the summer!). On the other hand, I have checked out a few movies after reading well-reasoned, thoughtful reviews by Roger Ebert of movies that I initially was hesitant to see, or had not planned to see at all. But to base actions on the silly blurbs? I don't get it.
posted by davidmsc at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2001

If someone does not file a lawsuit against Sony then other movie studios will think that the practice is OK. Personally, if I went to see any of the films that had the reviews on them I would be asking for my money back too.

It is a matter of principle to tell corporate America that they must play by the rules.
posted by DragonBoy at 11:38 AM on June 10, 2001

The blurbs they pepper the ads with are always so vague and meaningless anyway. You'll see an ad in February proclaiming some new movie to be the "Funniest Movie Of The Year!" or some other such nonsense.

Besides, there are always moronic critics out there that will praise a horrendous movie, so it really doesn't matter if the quotes are real or not. The studios can always find some critic that likes their film, no matter how awful it truly is.

If a person is so weak-willed as to be conned into seeing a movie based on one of these out-of-context blurbs, they probably deserve to be tricked into sitting through yet another insipid flick.
posted by daveleck at 11:53 AM on June 10, 2001

My thought is, if you can't tell that The Animal is going to be an awful movie just from the television ad, and you think some no-name reviewer from a small paper in Connecticut is a more credible source than your own common sense, you deserve to pay to see to a piece-of-crap movie. "A fool and his money are soon parted," as the saying goes.

And in a separate but related thought, if you think that we aren't all eventually going to pay for any settlement Sony has to dish out, you're an even bigger fool. These movie-goers in LA, if they win, will be paid out of higher ticket prices for the rest of us. Sony certainly isn't going to absorb that expense.
posted by jennaratrix at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2001

Sony can't unilaterally raise film rental prices, and it's a declining market -- more product than seats. If there were a class-action lawsuit joined by state attorneys general, that would count against corporate earnings.

I can't believe this was a vast conspiracy, though. Why would they use a real paper that had no such film critic? Just plain dumb, and sure to raise questions after repeated use1. It's entirely possible this was a colossal copyediting error and they were using Manning in ad mock-ups. And as duly noted, there's no shortage of fluffers in the movie-critic business, and it's been much parodied over the years (the lamented Spy used to run silly Shalitesque one-liner reviews by their janitor). So the fact that they just invented one either points to a colossal blunder, or a feeling that nobody cared anymore and the blurbs were just one more standard, expected graphical feature of a newspaper movie ad that isn't paid attention to. "It'll look funny without the blurb text!"

1 That's another question. Were there any others? I'd assume some intern someplace is spot-checking dozens of recent Sony ads for ringers, but hey, US newspapers never miss a story, right?
posted by dhartung at 12:35 PM on June 10, 2001

I'd argue that redeeming a warranty on a product that fails to work properly is a bit different than "he/she said this movie is good but I didn't like it, so I want my money back." It's maybe not such a leap to that from "this fake film critic said this movie is good but I didn't like it . . ." etc. A completely different argument, and really the more important one, is Sony's ethical responsibility not to make up favorable reviews in an effort to drum up business, which I obviously don't agree with. I just don't necessarily believe that litigation is the way to solve the problem, for the reason stated in the second part of my post.

And as for Sony being unable to unilaterally raise film rental prices, absolutely, but Sony does operate theaters and sells many other products; count on it, if Sony has to pay a settlement, the money will come for somewhere, and it isn't going to be the CEO's pocket.
posted by jennaratrix at 12:58 PM on June 10, 2001

I think they should form a commission to investigate and fact-check all movie ads submitted to any paper with over 10,000 circulation. This should be a federally-run bureaucracy (interstate commerce, dontcha know) with offices in DC, New York, and of course LA, and satellite offices in Tokyo, Paris, London and Toronto. A cabinet-level muckety-muck should head the whole thing (but imagine the confirmation process), and it should be staffed by several hundred trained desk-monkeys with advanced degrees in English and Marketing.
posted by mikel at 2:34 PM on June 10, 2001

skallas - I wasn't suggesting suing the CEO directly, as I'm sure you're aware. I'm aware of the complexity of business practices. As demonstrated by the tobacco settlements, the contingency play to cover lawsuits is usually to RAISE PRICES. I was going to put links to stories showing this trend, but those stories are easy to find. I realize that tobacco companies have more wiggle room to raise prices than Sony does in this case, but the theory is the same. The bottom line is, successfully suing a huge multi-national corporation for shoddy business practices rarely results in a loss of corporate earnings - those losses are often passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices, not always directly on the products or services related to the lawsuit. If that happens, and the company become uncompetitive as a result, I completely agree with your point. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), that doesn't seem to happen very often.

Do I think that since this is often the case, we should stand by and do nothing when a company engages in shoddy business practices? No. My point was simply that litigation rarely has the result intended, and often has unintended negative impact on the consumer. I don't pretend to know what the alternative is, but litigation seems to be overused and somewhat less than effective.
posted by jennaratrix at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2001

Making up fake reviews is standard practice in UK book publishing and freely admitted to by the major publishers who encourage staff to post reviews of new releases on Amazon posing as members of the book-buying public


During a series of publishing mcjobs in the major UK houses a few years ago I saw cover quotes routinely fabricated, and attributed not to obscure local papers but to mags like Cosmo and GQ. Do consumers take quotes on books more seriously than quotes on movie posters?
posted by scooterboy at 4:11 PM on June 10, 2001

I think this is definately a case that should be persued, as it just reeks of false advertising.

It not only reeks of false advertising, it IS false advertising, and fraud, and a host of other Bad Things as well. In my opinion, if Sony fails to settle this lawsuit, and do it quickly, they can only get what they deserve when these plaintiffs nail their sorry little behinds.

Were people who relied on the fake blurbs stupid? Maybe so. But our society has layers and layers of regulatory agencies designed to protect people from their own stupidity. I'd rather have the stupid folks fight back for themselves - through lawsuits like this - than to have the government decide what we can and cannot put in the newspaper.
posted by mikewas at 6:20 PM on June 10, 2001

I'm not sure I see the need foa a class action suit here; but it does seem as if the FCC (or the attributed newspaper) or someone should fine Sony for false advertising. I'm not sure anyone was hurt by this, *and* corporations don't get to just lie. (ha!)
posted by rebeccablood at 6:29 PM on June 10, 2001

>corporations don't get to just lie.


sorry, I just so totally crack myself up sometimes.

posted by rebeccablood at 6:31 PM on June 10, 2001

as you say, they shouldn't be allowed to lie.
posted by jackstark at 8:23 PM on June 10, 2001

My pancakes don't come out anything like that dool-inducing picture on the Aunt Jemima box!
40 billion! I need 40 billion for my feelings of disappointment and inaptitude!
posted by dong_resin at 9:40 PM on June 10, 2001

I don't see how they can win this suit now there is proof that David Manning actually exists.
posted by dogwelder at 6:39 PM on June 11, 2001

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