Wednesday, August 03, 2005

THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. I'm all for protecting the public from fraud, but I think this is a bit much:
An American judge has approved a $1.5m (£850,000) settlement between Sony Pictures and a group of filmgoers who claimed that the Hollywood studio used quotes by a fictitious film critic to promote features in 2001.

Movie fans who saw classic offerings such as The Animal, about a man who is transplanted with animal organs, or A Knight's Tale, with Heath Ledger as a peasant boy aspiring to be a knight to the sounds of Queen's We Will Rock You, can now apply for a $5 (£2.80) refund for each cinema ticket they bought...
It should be mentioned that Sony had already been dunned by the Connecticut AG for the imposture. The new ruling amounts to pain and suffering damages for credulous moviegoers.

Personally, I think if you paid money to see A Knight's Tale you deserve all the pain and suffering you got.

Years ago, the producer David Merrick tried to run a display ad in New York papers with the names and pictures of Broadway's top critics, all unanimous in praise of Merrick's latest, Subways are for Sleeping. Only the men whose raves were to run were not critics -- they were just guys Merrick had found whose names were the same as the critics.

Only one paper got fooled, and the story has been a good laugh in showbiz circles ever since. I don't think anyone sued Merrick, or thought of it.

Now, Broadway's a small world where an outlandish act like this would be more easily forgiven. And I understand that the global cinema audience is not quite so partial to in-jokes -- and that the busted marketers were certainly not just being impish. People handling that kind of money tend not to play around.

But come on. If suckers were ne'er shorn, whither show business? I shudder to think what might be if this logic were applied in bygone eras. Bust the medicine shows, and a lot of country legends never make it to the Opry. P.T. Barnum would have spent his life, not entertaining the masses, but breaking rocks in the Bridgeport Penitentiary. And let's not even talk about magicians. Harry Houdini would be doing community service telling kids not to lock themselves in underwater trunks.

Seen from approximately the same angle, most movie trailers are at least as deceitful as the Sony stunt was -- with their jacked-up editing rhythms and soundscapes, they usually make movies look much more exciting than they are, or could possibly be without the assistance of lysergic acid. What about that TV ad that's been telling us The Skeleton Key heralds the return of the psychological thriller? Will the authors of these recent films come to the bar to argue that the psychological thriller came in with them? I suppose the next step will be to subpoena film stars who go on Entertainment Tonight to speak well of whatever sorry product they're in, and submit them to lie-detector tests.

I am at least half serious. Maybe even as much as 60 percent!

At least someone has a sense of humor about this.

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