Da Vinci Code reviews mystery is in the stars

Two major newspapers have been accused of increasing the star-ratings awarded by their film critics to The Da Vinci Code.

In the latest issue of Sight & Sound, editor Nick James claims that he was told by "two of Britain's better-known newspaper reviewers" that their onestar review of The Da Vinci Code had been upped to three stars by their respective editors.

He wrote in the editorial that, if true, this was an "appalling collusion" with the film's marketing campaign. James declined to name the reviewers or the newspapers.

But he said one was "a broadsheet once known as a ‘top people's paper'" while the other was a "city-based daily".

James told Press Gazette: "How can an editor presume what the public thinks before it's even out there? It's preposterous that they should do this.

"I think there is a kind of general arrogance about the cinema — in general they don't think of it as an art form and therefore assume that anyone can review films."

Asked if he had come across instances of commercial pressures influencing film reviews before, James said he had come across situations where reviewers had been encouraged to be more positive about commercial films.

He said: "I used to work on [listings magazine] City Limits and there was a time when advertisers would try to influence who would write the review.

We refused to be influenced and we didn't get the advertising."

He added: "I do hear these complaints occasionally, but it seemed astonishing that two at the same time should confess to the same problem."

The Telegraph's chief film critic Sukhdev Sandhu said that he had heard of occasions when editors had changed ratings on film reviews for commercial reasons.

Sandhu said: "I think there's a way when you have the star system in which editors can hedge their bets because they may not have seen the film, but they play it safe with the star system and they might bring it down a bit."

He said: "The films critics tend to like are not necessarily the ones with the biggest audiences.

"So you don't want to appear really snobby and contemptuous when a couple of days later you read the takings in the first weekend were £9 million and you've just been saying it's a pile of shit. In order to not make you look extreme, I could imagine editors would make it two out of five or whatever. I'm sure there are commercial pressures as well."

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