David Manning (sometimes "Dave") was a pseudonym used by a marketing executive around July 2000 to give consistently good reviews for releases from Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures. Several fictional review quotes attributed to "David Manning" were used in the promotion of medieval action/drama A Knight's Tale (describing Heath Ledger as "this year's hottest new star!") and Rob Schneider's comedy The Animal ("Another winner!"), the latter of which generally received mixed to poor reviews by real critics.
Manning was named after a friend of Matthew Cramer, the Sony marketing executive responsible for the insertions. Manning was credited to The Ridgefield Press, a small weekly newspaper from Ridgefield, Connecticut that actually published film reviews written by the father-and-son team of Mark and Jonathan Schumann. During an investigation into Manning's quotes, Newsweek reporter John Horn discovered that the newspaper had never heard of him. The story emerged in mid-2001, around the same time as an announcement that Sony had used employees posing as moviegoers in television commercials to praise the Mel Gibson film The Patriot. These occurrences, in tandem, raised questions and controversy about ethics in film promotion practices.
On August 3, 2005, Sony made an out-of-court settlement and agreed to refund $5 each to dissatisfied customers who saw Hollow Man, The Animal, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, or Vertical Limit in American theaters as a result of Manning's reviews.
- Horn, John (June 2, 2001). "The Reviewer Who Wasn't There". Newsweek.
- McKittrick, Christopher (1 August 2016). ""Did Sony Once Create a Fake Film Critic to Praise Its Movies?"". ThoughtCo.com. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
- Shearer, Harry (June 10, 2001). "le Show". HarryShearer.com. Archived from the original on May 30, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
- "June 10, 2001". Harry Shearer. 2020-07-01. Archived from the original on 2021-12-17. Retrieved 2021-12-17.
- Elsworth, Catherine. "Sony ordered to pay $1.5m for film-goer hoax". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- David Manning entry from the Museum of Hoaxes
- MetaCritic and RottenTomato rankings for the movies reviewed by Manning
- Rezec v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., No. 160586 (Cal. App. Jan. 27, 2004)