Hollywood’s movie marketing operation has discovered a new outlet — fake news.
A elaborate, yet fictitious, news story claiming that President Donald Trump met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a remote wellness center in the Swiss Alps prior to the November 2016 U.S. presidential election is actually a promo for the upcoming film A Cure for Wellness from New Regency and Fox.
The psychological horror thriller, directed by Gore Verbinski, is set in a mysterious center in the Alps and follows a young executive who travels there in search of his company’s CEO.
The article about Trump and Putin meeting at that same fictitious facility, the Volmer Institute, appeared on the Sacramento Dispatch website, which Snopes, the fact-checking website, has called “part of a new network of fake news sites that masquerade as the online outlets of big-city newspapers.” Those sites turned out to be marketing outlets for the film.
Ads for Cure for Wellness also appear on the site, as well as on Houston Leader, the NY Morning Post and The Salt Lake City Guardian, along with a story about how the film is leaving viewers in a “catatonic state.”
When some on Twitter began criticizing the marketing effort for spreading fake news, Fox and Regency responded Monday in a statement: “A Cure for Wellness is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker. As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site healthandwellness.co was created and we partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news. As our movie’s antagonist says, ‘There is a sickness inside us. And only when we know what ails us, can we hope to find the cure.”
A Cure for Wellness hits theaters Friday.
The story, appearing on the online sites, runs under a headline that reads: “BOMBSHELL: Trump and Putin Spotted at Swiss Resort Prior to Election.”
The article quotes a purported employee of the Volmer Institute named Nathan Sjogren. “I couldn’t, in good conscience, keep this information to myself. This is bigger than me, this is bigger than my job, and while I know I am very likely putting myself as well as my loved ones in danger of coming forward, I don’t know that I would have been able to live with myself had I kept quiet,” the story quotes Sjogren as saying.
As of Monday afternoon, the website for The Sacramento Dispatch and the sites for several of the fake outlets listed above began to redirect to the movie’s official site, acureforwellness.com. Fox didn’t immediately respond to the update.
Feb. 13, 4 p.m.: Updated to include the websites redirecting back to the movie’s site.