Sony Pictures is finally settling the score with moviegoers duped into watching duds on the advice of fake film critic David Manning.

E! Online has learned that the studio has agreed to put $1.5 million into a fund to settle a class-action suit brought by film patrons who claimed they went to see A Knight's Tale after reading the fictitious Manning's glowing review that hailed Heath Ledger as that year's "hottest new star!"

Omar Rezec of Los Angeles and Ann Belknap of Sierra Madre, California, filed the suit in June 2001 after it was revealed that two Sony Pictures execs had invented Manning in the hopes of injecting flopping films with a little box office magic.

The faux critic was billed as a film reviewer for the Connecticut Ridgefield Press--a real publication, though no Manning ever worked there. The studio then placed the reviews in commercials for its films.

Other notable Manning favorites included The Animal ("another winner!"), Hollow Man and Vertical Limit.

Once Newsweek broke the news of the scandal, Sony rushed to erase Manning's legacy and suspended the employees that concocted the scam. (They were reinstated 30 days later.)

But filmgoers were still smarting from shelling out their hard-earned dough to see Heath Ledger cavort about in a suit of armor based on the advice of a false reviewer.

Now there's a light at the end of the tunnel for those theater patrons burned by Manning. A source familiar with the pending deal says that each participant in the class-action suit can expect as much as a $5 return from the studio's $1.5 million payout--almost enough to buy a ticket for a matinee.

Any cash left over in the fund will be donated to charity.

Sony declined to comment on the settlement. As for David Manning, nobody's heard from him in years.

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