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Fact check: Captain America did not predict the current coronavirus pandemic 

Posts on Facebook and Instagram claim that the 2011 Marvel Studios superhero film “Captain America: The First Avenger” predicted the COVID-19 outbreak. The posts show a still of Chris Evans in the titular role, standing in New York City’s Times Square with a Corona beer billboard and a sign which appears to be a COVID-19 microbe behind him. While the Corona beer advert was visible in Times Square at the time the scene was filmed, the alleged “coronavirus” sign is actually an advert for Barilla pasta. This false claim plays into unfounded conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 pandemic was “planned”.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of these posts can be found here , here , and here .  

According to an article published on the website Superhero Hype on April 23, 2011, a scene for the Captain America movie was filmed in Times Square the previous day (  here  ). Six weeks earlier, on March 12, 2011, a user named Haruo Aoki uploaded YouTube video (  here  ) with the title “Times square Daytime, New York City, 8 March 2011.” Both the Corona beer billboard and the purported coronavirus sign can be seen throughout the footage, with the latter most clear at the 2:25 and 2:52 marks. An image of Times Square from March 3, 2011 that shows the same “coronavirus” billboard can be found here .  

On June 11, 2020, writer and film critic William Mullally began a thread on Twitter (  here  ) in which he pointed out that the alleged microbe poster was actually an advertisement for the Italian food company Barilla. The image shows spaghetti arranged to resemble a firework, accompanied by the message “Buone Feste,” or “Happy Holidays” in Italian (  here , here  ). It was part of an ad campaign that began in 2010. 

Other versions and subsequent iterations of the ad can be seen here , here and here . 

Corona beer has no affiliation with the new coronavirus. According to a May 2020 article in The Economist (  here  ), the Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo began producing Corona beer in Mexico City in the 1920s. “Corona” is the Spanish word for “crown,” hence the crown insignia featured on the bottle-cap and label since 1963. 

The name for the family of viruses to which COVID-19 belongs comes from the crown-like spikes on the pathogen’s exterior. As reported by Business Insider, these “spikes affect the way that a virus binds onto a host cell and infects it.” (here) Further information on the naming of the COVID-19, provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), can be found here . 

Some social media users have commented that the photo still contains “evidence” of a planned pandemic, claiming that a third billboard in the background shows a mask, another purported omen of COVID-19. The billboard is an advertisement for “The Phantom of the Opera”, the longest-running show in Broadway history (  here  ). The musical opened on Broadway in 1988 and ran continuously until March 12, 2020, when the show suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic (  here  ).  

Notably, the masks featured in advertisements (  here  ) and worn by the phantom in staged productions (  here  ), and the 2004 film adaptation (  here  ), do not cover the mouth or nostrils, as the phantom sings frequently during the musical. Such a mask would not prevent the wearer from catching or spreading the novel coronavirus.  

VERDICT

False. A still from the 2011 Captain America movie does not show a sign featuring a coronavirus microbe, but rather a Barilla pasta ad. The film did not predict the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here .

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