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The latest news from Entertainment

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    ted farnsworth mitch lowe

    • Four obscure blogs wrote similar posts about Ted Farnsworth, the CEO of MoviePass' parent company, pushing back against anyone calling him a "scam artist."
    • The posts, which date back to 2015, contain some sentences that are exactly the same, and appear prominently in Google search for either "Ted Farnsworth scam" or "Ted Farnsworth scam artist."
    • Farnsworth, who has registered 50 different companies in Florida over the past 30 years (according to the Miami Herald), has been under fire from unhappy investors this week as his company has suffered cash-flow issues and a cratering share price.
    • A few have called him a "scam artist" or worse on Twitter.


    Several obscure internet bloggers really want you to know that Ted Farnsworth, the CEO of MoviePass’ parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY), is not a scam artist.

    Farnsworth has been under fire the last week from HMNY investors upset at the 1-for-250 reverse stock split the company enacted, and the subsequent cratering of the share price back under $1. (Browse $HMNY for the most recent examples of negative sentiment, including calls for the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the company.) On Thursday morning, HMNY stock was trading at around $0.14, mere cents away from its pre-stock split share price.

    MoviePass has had to take drastic measures to get its cash burn, which reached $45 million monthly, under control. The service experienced an outage late last week that the company disclosed was because it didn’t pay some of its merchant and fulfillment processors.

    But even in the days leading up to the company temporarily running out of money, Farnsworth and MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe always presented sunny faces to investors. When asked about MoviePass’ cash-flow situation in late July, Farnsworth told Business Insider he was “not worried.”

    The current financial situation for MoviePass and HMNY has more  than one person accusing Farnsworth of being a “scam artist” on Twitter. But there are several bloggers, with posts dating back to 2015, who want you to know that Farnsworth is, in fact, not a scam artist.

     

    Business Insider found four blogs posts with very similar language that prominently appear when you search on Google for “Ted Farnsworth scam” or “Ted Farnsworth scam artist.”

    “There is a lot of publicity surrounding Ted Farnsworth and even some innuendos of him being involved in scams,” one blog post starts, written by someone who goes by Ella Emerson. “But as you know anyone on the internet can accuse anyone of being in a scam, that doesn’t mean they are.”

    Here’s how another, written by someone known as Sajid Rehman, begins: “Theodore Farnsworth is in the news quite routinely and because he is, at times you will observe postings and comments on the internet declaring that Ted may be a scam artist. I really don’t think that it’s right to say he or someone else is associated with scams unless you have proof.”

    While there are variations in the copy, they all paint Farnsworth’s various business ventures and philanthropic efforts in an extremely positive light.

    ted farnsworth scam 2

    Other writers at more established outlets have not been as generous.

    Bloomberg published a story in October that detailed Farnsworth’s history of penny-stock "wipeouts." Citing Florida's business registry, The Miami Herald reported earlier this year that "over the past three decades, Farnsworth has registered more than 50 different companies in Florida, including energy drink ventures, a hotel group, and a video company" — not to mention "a psychic hotline that featured La Toya Jackson as a spokeswoman."

    But the four blog posts are strange not only because of their positive tone and subject matter, but because they all contain a few of the exact same phrases.

    For instance, the following sentence appears in all four posts:

    “Mr. Farnsworth’s entrepreneurial spirit has led to feature articles in numerous publications, including Forbes, Fortune, Investor’s Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, to name a few, and appearances on MSNBC and CNBC.”

     

    scam farnsworth 3

    So where could these blog posts have come from?

    “There are many ‘black hat’ reputation firms that use a smorgasbord of spammy tactics to try and cover up a bad reputation,” Andy Beal, CEO of Reputation Refinery and author of "Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation," told Business Insider. “Instead of helping to genuinely rebuild a tarnished reputation and work on campaigns that highlight a person's honest effort to rebuild their character, they instead rely on efforts to game the search engines.”

    “Shady tactics include paying bloggers to publish ghost-written posts, asking friends and employees to write positive blog posts, or even creating new company or personal websites and linking them together to manufacture some Google juice,” Beal continued. “Fortunately, Google looks for both relevance and authority. Most high profile individuals will find their negative news appears on high profile, high authority websites. These will always outrank spammy, artificially created web content on Google. If Ted Farnsworth is behind any spammy reputation clean-up efforts, it will do more harm to his overall reputation than good.”

    None of the bloggers returned requests for comment from Business Insider. However, after emailing the address provided for Sajid Rehman, Business Insider got a reply from someone named Umair Idrees, whose email listed his company as "Alpolink," the same company mentioned on Rehman's author page. Idrees did not provide any information on the origin of the blog post about Farnsworth.

    On Alpolink's website in the portfolio section, the company says "our clients are seeing the value of managed search engine marketing through proven results, and you can too."

    A representative for Farnsworth and HMNY did not respond to a request for comment.

    Here are the four blog posts:

    If you have any further information about Ted Farnsworth's businesses or about Helios and Matheson, email the author at nmcalone@businessinsider.com.

    SEE ALSO: Despite drastic changes, MoviePass lost money on me for the month after only one day — and it shows why the service is in a death spiral

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why the World Cup soccer ball looks so different


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    matt damon ben affleck

    • Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Fox are making a movie based on the viral true-crime story of a former cop who reportedly rigged McDonald's Monopoly game for $24 million over 12 years.
    • Affleck will direct and Damon will star in the film based on a report by The Daily Beast published last weekend.
    • The article detailed the story of how Jerry Jacobson, a former police officer, was found to be at the heart of a criminal scheme that led to the conviction of more than 50 people for mail fraud and conspiracy in 2001.

    Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Fox have secured the rights to make a movie based on the true-crime story of a former police officer who reportedly rigged McDonald's Monopoly game for $24 million over the course of 12 years, Deadline reports.

    Affleck is set to direct and Damon to star in the film, the story of which is based on a viral report published by The Daily Beast last weekend, written by Jeff Maysh and headlined, "How An Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game And Stole Millions."

    The article detailed the convoluted story of how Jerry Jacobson, a former police officer, was found to be at the heart of a criminal scheme to defraud $24 million in winning McDonald's Monopoly pieces from the company. The wide-ranging scheme led to the conviction of more than 50 people for mail fraud and conspiracy in 2001.

    The scheme began in 1989 with Jacobson working as a director of security at an agency that worked with McDonald's, where he was in charge of overseeing the printing of the game pieces for the Monopoly promotion.

    According to Deadline, the bidding war for the rights to the subject matter was "ferocious" with a line-up of bidders that included "Universal for Kevin Hart, Warner Bros for John Requa & Glenn Ficarra and Steve Carell and producer Andrew Lazar, and Netflix, which bid for producing partners Eric Newman & Bryan Unkeless, Robert Downey Jr & Susan Downey, and Todd Phillips."

    "Deadpool" screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese will write the film's script, while The Pearl Street will produce the film, Deadline reports.

    SEE ALSO: A former cop masterminded a scheme to win nearly $24 million in the McDonald's Monopoly game. Here's how he pulled it off.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why the World Cup soccer ball looks so different


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    Sonos IPO

    • Smart-speaker company Sonos went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange Thursday, raising $1.5 billion to compete with Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and Google. 
    • Shares rose roughly 30% from opening price of $16.
    • Business Insider spoke to an early investor who now sits on Sonos' board, as well as the company's VP of corporate finance about what's next for the smart-speaker company.

    Sonos — the smart-speaker company powering sound waves in seven million homes so far — raised $1.5 billion in an initial public offering on Thursday.

    The California-based firm has been making high-fidelity speakers for more than 16 years. And after raising more than $450 million over the course of nine rounds on Sand Hill Road, Sonos finally made the leap to Wall Street.

    Two company executives told Business Insider that the company hopes to use the proceeds from the IPO to take on mega-cap tech giants like Apple and Amazon, and recently public Spotify, for control of your home's soundscape.

    "We felt like the company had a lot of positive tailwinds behind them in terms of the increase in streaming music, the increase in WiFi in peoples' homes, the technology Sonos had to make music a multi-room experience that we didn't see anywhere else," Brittany Bagley, a managing director at KKR — an original investor in Sonos' $135 million Series F round back in 2012 and underwriter on the IPO  — who now sits on Sonos' board, said in an interview.

    "We very much like to invest thematically behind growing businesses, and we saw a lot of those positive opportunities all inside Sonos. They were a great way to back some of those trends."

    Of course, Sonos isn't the only company hoping to hitch its wagon to the streaming train. Spotify went public through a so-called direct listing earlier this year, only to disappoint in its first earnings report as a publicly-traded company. Entrenched giants like Apple, Amazon, and Google all have released their own versions of home speakers as well.

    Instead of competing directly, Sonos wants to remain agnostic, supporting anything from Spotify streaming, to Google's voice assistant, and more.

    "I really see Sonos as an enabler of the streaming providers," Bagley said. "Customers listen to 70% more music when they are listening through Sonos. It really enables people who love to listen to those streaming music services to do it more, out loud, and in their home.

    "Yes we sell a physical product and that's how we monetize our software from a business model standpoint, but we really view ourselves as an enabler of that ecosystem."

    Profitability, on the other hand, could present the company with another struggle. Sonos said in its IPO filing that it lost $14.22 million — or $0.50 a share — in its most recent fiscal year ending September 30.

    Mike Groeninger, Sonos' VP of corporate finance, says more international sales can help with that. "Historically, we episodically launched products," he told Business Insider in an interview.

    "Now our intention is to launch two new products every year. We're looking at partnerships like what we're doing with Ikea to drive the number of new households at different price points. We also have a large geographic expansion opportunity. Eighty percent of our revenue comes from five countries. We'll actually be launching in Japan later this year, it's the second-largest music market in the world, so we're excited about the international opportunity as well."

    But don't expect that profit anytime soon, both executives said. Instead, Sonos says Thursday's IPO was a way to access new investors and fresh cash as it continues to grow.

    "It's about getting the right long-term investors today, building that base of investors over the long term, and executing against our business model and plans so that we can drive shareholder value over the long term," Groeninger said. "Because of product cadence, it's just natural that we will have volatility in our quarters."

    Now read:

    SEE ALSO: Sonos surges in trading debut

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Brazil's empty $300 million World Cup stadium


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    mission impossible fallout

    • 2,000 fans climbed Pulpit Rock in Norway, a 2,000-foot cliff, for an outdoor viewing of "Mission: Impossible — Fallout" Wednesday night.
    • The cliff is the site of one of the movie's biggest action scenes, though it doubles for a cliff in Kashmir, India in the movie.

     

    "Mission: Impossible" fans aren't afraid to carry out near-impossible missions of their own. 

    Paramount Pictures said 2,000 fans climbed to the top of Norway's 2,000-foot cliff,  Pulpit Rock, for an outdoor viewing of "Mission: Impossible — Fallout" on Wednesday at 11 p.m.

    Franchise star Tom Cruise, who was not in attendance, tweeted about the event on Thursday, and said "2,000 feet, 2,000 people, 4 hours of hiking. The most impossible screening of #MissionImpossible Fallout. Thank you all for coming! I wish I could have been there."

    The movie was followed by a 2-hour return hike back down the mountain early Thursday morning using flashlights and headlamps.

    Paramount said the purpose of the event "was to promote tourism in the region following the filming of Mission: Impossible Fallout in that location."

    The "Mission: Impossible" series is known for its death-defying stunts, and Cruise is known for executing them on his own without a stunt person, including a skydive at 25,000 feet with a broken ankle in the latest movie.

    "Fallout" also features a thrilling climax set at Pulpit Rock, although it doubled for a cliff in Kashmir, India in the film.  

    Below are photos from the screening:

    mission impossible

    mission impossible

    mission impossible

    SEE ALSO: 106 skydives with a broken ankle: Inside how Tom Cruise pulled off the thrilling HALO jump in 'Mission: Impossible — Fallout'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why the World Cup soccer ball looks so different


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    fortnite nintendo switch

    For months now, "Fortnite: Battle Royale" has kept players on their toes with weekly — and sometimes daily — updates to the game, including new character skins, limited-time game modes, and fun and interesting challenges.

    Some of those updates have been just for fun, and some actually change the way the game is played. For example, in the days leading up to the beginning of Season 5, the game hinted that a rocket launch would change the island forever. During the actual launch, the rocket caused a large rift in the space-time continuum to open up above the center of the map, and several items and landmarks throughout the island started disappearing. 

    The developers have also introduced or removed a few truly game-changing tools throughout the game's history, including jet packs, guided missiles, fast-moving vehicles, and rifts. 

    Here's everything that's been added to Fortnite in the last two weeks:

    SEE ALSO: Parents are paying as much as $35 an hour for 'Fortnite' coaches for their kids

    The Guided Missile is back!

    The beloved Guided Missile was removed from the game months ago for dealing too much damage, and because players quickly realized they could jump onto the careening missiles and ride them around like flying skateboards. 

    Now, the powerful weapon is back with a slightly lower damage rate, and a blessing from Epic Games encouraging players to "rocket ride teammates into the action."



    This week's update includes a brand new limited-time mode: Fly Explosives

    The limited-time Fly Explosives mode removes all weapons from the game that aren't explosives (think grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, and the now-returned guided missile, of course), and re-introduces jetpacks to the game. 

    The jetpacks in this mode will be able to keep players in the air longer, thanks to an increased fuel regeneration rate and a decreased fuel burn rate, compared to previous iterations.

     



    The no-pressure, no-combat Playground Mode is back this week, now featuring the guided missiles and jetpacks.

    "Playground" is a limited-time sandbox-style mode that lets players take a break from the fast-paced battle royale formula by roaming through the island with up to three of their friends, without any opponents to shoot at or hide from.

    The mode includes the island's normal amount of loot, plus ten times the normal gather rate for building materials, and a hundred llamas scattered across the island, giving players the perfect environment to hone their combat and building skills without having to worry about scavenging for weapons and resources.

    With this new update, many of the game's resources are increased. Ammo cans now give ten times more ammo than they do in the regular battle royale mode, players are more likely to find the rare launch and bounce pads, and one hundred supply drops will fall to the island throughout each match.

    Friendly fire will be turned on, so squad members will be able to deal damage to one another. Never fear, though — players who are killed in Playground Mode will immediately respawn and parachute back onto the island.

    After 55 minutes of free play, the storm will begin to close in on the island, eventually ending each round after a full hour has gone by. Deaths outside of the eye of the storm will not result in a respawn.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    YouTube HQ, expansion, San Bruno, David Woltering

    • YouTube wants to dramatically expand the company's headquarters.
    • The city of San Bruno, CA, recently presented four options for the public to consider. 
    • The plan favored by YouTube would call for a dramatic increase in the amount of office space and jobs located in the area. 

    SAN BRUNO, CA — More than 13 years and millions of uploads later, the tiny video startup that began life above a pizzeria has grown so large that entire neighborhoods must be reshaped to meet its needs.

    YouTube’s managers began to seek an expansion of its San Bruno, CA headquarters last year. On Tuesday evening, the city of San Bruno presented four separate development plans for the 98-acre area around YouTube’s offices for public consideration. More than 50 people showed up at the San Bruno Senior Center to review the plans and offer input.

    According to city managers, YouTube favors a proposal that would add 2.3 million square feet of office space and eventually bring more than 10,000 new jobs to the area. Not all those jobs or space would belong to Google but David Woltering, the community development director for the city of San Bruno, said “The vast majority of it would be YouTube’s.”  

    That YouTube is bursting beyond its current office space should surprise no one. The world’s No. 1 video-sharing service and the second most-visited site on the Web (Google is No.1) is supposedly raking in big ad dollars, according to analysts. In May, analysts from Morgan Stanley said they believe if YouTube were a standalone enterprise, it would be more valuable than General Electric, IBM, PepsiCo or Comcast.

    The expansion plan for YouTube’s headquarters is just the latest sign that YouTube continues to grow and parent company Google doesn’t expect that growth to end any time soon.

    Proposed development of area around YouTube's HQ

    To help make way for the expansion, YouTube spent more than $300 million to acquire a total of about 40 acres within the existing San Bruno Bayhill Office Park. YouTube proposes to "intensify" use of that property to add somewhere between 1.7 million and 2.5 million square feet to the existing 900,000 square feet of office space on that property.  

    Currently, the overall area has 1.6 million square feet of total office space, 145,000 square feet dedicated to retail, and no space allotted for the public or civic uses.

    YouTube favors a plan titled “Alternative 4, Greenway Connection,” which calls for adding the most office space of any of the proposals, with 2.3 million square feet. Alternative 4 also includes adding 21,000 square feet for retail, 4.5 acres for public open space and nothing for civic uses. Underground parking would be built.

    On the opposite extreme, Alternative 1 allows for the addition of 1.09 million square feet of office space, 9,000 square feet for retail, 6.2 acres for open space, and 1.7 acres for civic uses.

    The expansion still has a lengthy review process ahead of it before a specific plan is adopted, but Woltering said he thinks that the draft plan could be completed before year’s end. Following that, there would be a formal hearing process to consider plan adoption sometime in the first quarter of next year. 

    YouTube hopes to break ground sometime by the end of 2019, Woltering said. 

    On Tuesday, members of the public, most of whom appeared to be well into their 60s, seemed most concerned about the need for additional parking and traffic mitigation. They complained that their streets were already clogged and adding 10,000 new workers sounded like a strong concern.

    Graphic of development around YouTube's HQ

    Woltering said the workers would be added gradually in stages by YouTube and the other companies in the area over a 20-year-period. 

    That a reasonably important part of YouTube business was being settled in the auditorium of a suburban senior-citizen center seemed strange. The plastic seats, cookies, and gray hair juxtaposed in my head with some of YouTube's typical video fare. Cardi B and Markiplier would have seemed out of place here.

    YouTube appeared to be popular among home and business owners in the area. Some of those who commented praised the company for being “a good neighbor.” 

    See Also:

    SEE ALSO: Morgan Stanley figured out how much YouTube would be worth if it were a separate company, and it's more valuable than Disney

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This hands-free crutch takes the strain off your hands, wrists and arms


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    YouTube HQ, expansion, San Bruno, David Woltering

    • YouTube wants to dramatically expand the company's headquarters.
    • The city of San Bruno, CA, recently presented four options for the public to consider. 
    • The plan favored by YouTube would call for a dramatic increase in the amount of office space and jobs located in the area. 

    SAN BRUNO, CA — More than 13 years and millions of uploads later, the tiny video startup that began life above a pizzeria has grown so large that entire neighborhoods must be reshaped to meet its needs.

    YouTube’s managers began to seek an expansion of its San Bruno, CA headquarters last year. On Tuesday evening, the city of San Bruno presented four separate development plans for the 98-acre area around YouTube’s offices for public consideration. More than 50 people showed up at the San Bruno Senior Center to review the plans and offer input.

    According to city managers, YouTube favors a proposal that would add 2.3 million square feet of office space and eventually bring more than 10,000 new jobs to the area. Not all those jobs or space would belong to Google but said “The vast majority of it would be YouTube’s.”  

    That YouTube is bursting beyond its current office space should surprise no one. The world’s No. 1 video-sharing service and the second most-visited site on the Web (Google is No.1) is supposedly raking in big ad dollars, according to analysts. In May, analysts from Morgan Stanley said they believe if YouTube were a standalone enterprise, it would be more valuable than ...

    Sponsored:  If you enjoyed reading this story so far, why don’t you join Business Insider PRIME? Business Insider provides visitors from MSN with a special offer.  Simply click here to claim your deal and get access to all exclusive Business Insider PRIME benefits.

    See Also:

    SEE ALSO: Morgan Stanley figured out how much YouTube would be worth if it were a separate company, and it's more valuable than Disney

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Everything wrong with Android


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    Alex Jones

    • Spotify removed certain episodes of Alex Jones' podcast, citing its policy on 'hate content.'
    • Several of his videos have also been removed from Facebook and YouTube, and his personal page recently received a 30-day suspension from Facebook.
    • However, some Spotify subscribers don't feel the move went far enough, and are threatening to cancel their subscriptions if Spotify doesn't completely remove Jones' podcasts from the streaming service. 
    • People have taken to Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction, and a thread was created on Spotify's community page requesting that Jones' podcasts be taken down. 

    Plenty of Spotify subscribers still aren't happy with the company's decision to include Alex Jones' podcasts on the streaming service — and they're threatening to cancel their subscriptions if his content isn't completely removed.

    Spotify just confirmed that certain episodes from The Alex Jones Show were removed, citing its policy on "hate content," but the majority of the episodes are still available, and Spotify did not clarify which episodes were removed or what specifically violated its policy. 

    Now, Spotify users are voicing their dissatisfaction on Twitter and Spotify's community board — one request for the removal of Jones' content has nearly 2,000 votes as of press time. 

    Jones is known for his far-fetched conspiracy theories, including perhaps his most controversial take — claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, and the victims were "child actors." This claim has led to continued harassment of the victims' families, and some of them have sued Jones for defamation

    Although Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify have slightly reduced Jones' platform, his show InfoWars has an app on both Apple and Google's app stores — which effectively allows him to continue to broadcast regardless if he is suspended from the mainstream platforms. 

     

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What would happen if America's Internet went down


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    Colin Kaepernick

    • A song in the upcoming "Madden NFL 19" censors a reference to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
    • The song — YG's "Big Bank" — features a verse by Big Sean that directly references Kaepernick's last name. His name is replaced with silence.
    • It's unclear why the song is censored, but it's presumably related to Kaepernick's ongoing battle with the NFL. He is engaged in a collusion grievance with the NFL. 
    • Kaepernick repeatedly took a knee in protest during the national anthem while he was still with the San Francisco 49ers. 
    • On Thursday night, EA Sports apologized and said it would uncensor Kaepernick's name from the upcoming game.


    In a bizarre move, this year's "Madden" game censored an in-game mention of former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick.

    The reference pops up in a song on the game's soundtrack — YG's "Big Bank," which features several other musicians. On Big Sean's verse, he says, "You boys all cap, I'm more Colin Kaepernick."

    But in the game, according to a video shared widely online on Thursday, the song cuts Big Sean's verse when he says "Kaepernick," like it were a pejorative:

    Kaepernick is currently involved in a collusion grievance with the NFL, which may help explain why his name is being wiped from the big annual NFL-licensed video game.

    He argues that NFL teams conspired to keep him unemployed due to his protest of racial inequality and police brutality throughout the past two years. Kaepernick was the first to begin kneeling in protest during the singing of the national anthem at NFL games.

    Despite a strong record in the NFL, Kaepernick remains a free agent since leaving the 49ers.

    Big Sean responded to the discovery, saying that the cutting of Kaepernick's name from his song is "disappointing and appalling." He further says that the removal wasn't approved by him or his team. 

    Update: EA Sports is uncensoring Colin Kaepernick's name from the upcoming release of "Madden NFL 19." The company released the following statement on Thursday night:

    "We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack. Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don’t have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn’t affect soundtracks. We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to 'Madden NFL 19' on August 6 that will include the reference again. We meant no disrespect, and we apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake."

    You can watch the full video for YG's "Big Bank" right here:

    SEE ALSO: Colin Kaepernick's 'sole focus' is reportedly playing football and getting another chance in the NFL

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What would happen if America's Internet went down


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    MoviePass

    Movie-theater subscription service MoviePass has made a bevy of recent changes in an effort to stay afloat after a series of setbacks.

    The MoviePass app recently experienced an outage caused by the company temporarily running out of money, and it borrowed $5 million to get it up and running again. As MoviePass continues to struggle financially — the stock has plummeted to below a dollar — the changes it is implementing have been touted as a way to remain sustainable for the future. 

    But subscribers should be aware of these changes if they continue to use the service, or are new to it.

    Below are all the changes MoviePass will roll out, or has already:

    • MoviePass will increase its monthly plan from $9.95 a month to $14.95 a month within the next 30 days. It lowered its price last year to $9.95, and has struggled to keep up with the surge of subscribers since, as MoviePass pays full ticket price for most movies its users see.
    • Big movies with wide releases, such as "Christopher Robin," "The Meg" and others for the foreseeable future, will not be available on the service for at least their first two weeks in theaters. Prior to confirming this, MoviePass restricted users from seeing "Mission: Impossible — Fallout," prompting confusion during the movie's opening weekend.
    • In an email to customers this week, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said not all showtimes for every movie would be available, and the "service will vary from day to day."
    • The email also said that "access to customer support may be limited" as MoviePass works to improve it. The company is in the process of introducing more "self-help tools" and will "focus our resources on fixing glitches and bugs in the app." MoviePass customer service has been a thorn in users' sides, and it looks like it may get worse before it gets better.
    • Surge pricing during popular showtimes is here to stay, which has been a topic of controversy. Customers have complained that prices surge even when a theater is nearly empty. But MoviePass told Business Insider that surge pricing is still in the testing phase, and it is "trialing different algorithms to fine-tune the feature."
    • For new subscribers, MoviePass currently offers two monthly plans: a basic plan at $7.95 a month for three movies a month, and a "Plus" plan for $9.95 a month for a movie a day. You still can't see movies more than once in theaters, though.

    For more of Business Insider's MoviePass coverage, click here.

    SEE ALSO: MoviePass subscribers are complaining they can't cancel the service, but there's a simple solution

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    NOW WATCH: Why the World Cup soccer ball looks so different


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    MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe and Helios and Matheson Chief Executive Ted Farnsworth.

    • MoviePass' parent company appears to have turned to an old tactic to pay off an emergency cash advance it took out last Friday — issuing new shares.
    • The company's share count has nearly quadrupled just since it executed a reverse stock split last week.
    • The move is a familiar one for the company; it increased its share count by 3,000% over the previous year to help fund ongoing losses.


    Things were so desperate for MoviePass last week that its parent company had to get an emergency $5 million cash advance from its largest shareholder to just to pay its payment processor so it could continue to take ticket orders from customers.

    But by Tuesday, Helios and Matheson, MoviePass' corporate parent, was flush enough to completely pay not just the cash advance, but the entire $6.2 million note from the creditor.

    It's not entirely clear how Helios and Matheson was able to turn its fortunes around in less than a week, and company officials did not respond to a request for comment. But the company's recent filings with the Securities and Exchanges Commission indicate it returned to an old tactic — issuing new shares of its stock.

    While that move may have saved the company for now, it also likely played a role in the dramatic — and possibly terminal — decline in Helios and Matheson's stock price over the last week.

    Helios and Matheson had to get and emergency cash advance

    Last week, to prevent Helios and Matheson's stock from being delisted by the Nasdaq, company shareholders approved a reversed split of its shares. The next day, July 24, the company executed a 250-1 reverse split. The move left the company with about 1.7 million shares outstanding.

    Helios and Matheson had its outage with its payment processor that prompted its demand for a cash advance from Hudson Bay Capital Management just three days later. That the company was running low on cash wasn't much of a surprise. On July 10, the company warned it had just $13.7 million in cash on hand at the end of June and another $32 million on deposit with its payment processor, but was burning through cash at a rate of about $45 million a month.

    What was somewhat of a surprise is that days later, on July 31, Helios and Matheson repaid its creditor in full. But that announcement gave a strong indication of how it did so. Along with disclosing the payment, Helios and Matheson said its share count had swelled by 5 million shares to 6.7 million in the just the week since its reverse split.

    That may not sound like a lot, but it means that the company nearly quadrupled its share count in that time period. If the company hadn't executed its reverse split, it would have been the equivalent of issuing 1.25 billion shares in the course of a week.

    Helios and Matheson seems to have issued new shares to pay off its loan

    Company officials didn't respond to requests to confirm that Helios and Matheson paid off its loan by issuing new shares. But its filings strongly indicate that's exactly what it did, in one of two fashions.

    In the document in which Helios and Matheson announced its demand for a cash advance from Hudson Bay, it laid out the idea that it might sell new shares on the open market to repay the loan.

    "All proceeds received by the company on or after July 31, 2018 from sales of common stock under its outstanding at-the-market offering ... must be applied against any initial principal until no initial principal remains outstanding, and thereafter, against any remaining amounts due under the demand note," the terms of the contract stated.

    But the company also laid out the possibility that it might issue shares directly to Hudson Bay in lieu off cash to pay off the debt.

    "With the agreement of the [Hudson Bay], principal and accrued and unpaid late charges on the demand note may be applied to all, or any part, of the purchase price of securities to be issued upon the consummation, after July 27, 2018, of an offering of securities by the company to the holder."

    In its filing announcing that it had paid off the loan, Helios and Matheson didn't say whether it did so in cash or by issuing shares to Hudson Bay.

    The company has a history of using that tactic

    The tactic of issuing new shares to raise funds is one the company has returned to again and again as losses swelled at MoviePass. Even before the stock split, its share count had swelled by more than 3,000% over the previous year.

    Regardless of the approach it took to pay off its cash advance, the result was that the company's outstanding share count surged yet again. And, thanks to the law of supply and demand, that likely had a negative effect on Helios and Matheson's share price.

    The company's stock closed regular trading on July 26 at $6.83 a share. On July 27, amid news of the outage and the emergency cash advance, it dropped to $2 a share. Since then it's fallen even farther, closing at 10 cents a share on Thursday — and putting it once again in danger of being delisted by the Nasdaq for failing to trade above $1 a share.

    SEE ALSO: MoviePass' parent company has flooded its investors with a 3,000% increase in new shares — this chart shows how devastating it's been to the stock price

    SEE ALSO: MoviePass may be in bigger trouble than people realize

    SEE ALSO: MoviePass is losing $20 million a month — and starting to look a lot like a famous dot-com bust

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    ChristopherRobin_Trailer2_Select_4

    • "Christopher Robin" is a deep and meaningful movie that explores the dark sides of adulthood.
    • Ewan McGregor brings his irresistible charm to his performance as an adult Christopher Robin.
    • Its first hour is really, really dark. If these characters mean anything to you, you will cry a lot.
    • The animated stuffed animals look incredible.

    Adults, you've been warned: Bring a bucket (for tears) to "Christopher Robin" this weekend.

    "Christopher Robin," a movie I wept through, is directed by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Quantum of Solace," "World War Z”). It stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin alongside Hayley Atwell and incredibly designed and animated stuffed animals. It is a dark (both visually and thematically) weep-fest that is heavy on Eeyore. Thanks to its impeccable visual effects and McGregor's necessary presence, it is an excellent movie for those who are connected to A.A. Milne's quirky characters from the Hundred Acre Wood.

    The film's first hour, which focuses on Christopher Robin in his adulthood (he works for a luggage company and doesn't make enough time for his wife and daughter) is quite unnerving and has an unexpected war scene. It's meaningful and tragic for the adults like me who relate to him, but probably boring for kids who don't understand the context.

    Christopher Robin

    Through some honey magic or something (it's cute and doesn't need an explanation), Pooh and Christopher reunite in a park in London. McGregor — who is truly the heart and soul of any movie he's in, including the "Star Wars" prequels — captures Christopher Robin's distaste for Pooh's sudden intrusion, as well as a conflicting need for Pooh at this horrible period in his life. The two go on a journey throughout London, which is where the joyful comedic elements of the film start to sprinkle in and bring it a little more life.

    But it’s not until the whole gang (Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, and Rabbit) reunites with Christopher Robin that the movie picks up. His guilt for abandoning Pooh for so long brings him back to the Hundred Acre Wood to help him find his friends, who are apparently missing. After Christopher Robin convinces them he is not a Heffalump with the help of Eeyore — who is used so well and as often as the film’s dark tone suggests — they’re all reunited at last.

    ChristopherRobin_Trailer2_Select_9

    From then on, you’ll cry nostalgic, happy tears instead of tears about how dreadful adulthood is.

    When I tried to describe the movie's tone to my colleagues after I saw it, I said, without really thinking: "It's like, 'Paddington' but 'Dunkirk.'" And that's not an insult: a live-action movie featuring A.A. Milne's beloved characters wouldn't have worked any other way.

    Both of the iridescent "Paddington" films exude brightness and pure joy, even in the sequel's villain, played by the charming Hugh Grant. And that makes sense for that character. But "Christopher Robin" focuses on the dark but meaningful themes that many overlook in Milne's work because of the goofy (but mostly great) animated Disney Winnie the Pooh shows and movies that defined many childhoods. Milne's characters represent adult themes, and the screenplay reflects this: Eeyore's self-deprecation and depression, Piglet's crippling anxiety, Pooh's somehow wise idiocy, and Tigger's ego.

    "Christopher Robin" finds feelings you didn't know you had, but immediately makes you feel joy you didn't know you needed. You can watch the trailer below, and see it in theaters starting Friday:

    SEE ALSO: We talked to 'Game of Thrones' star Maisie Williams about fighting nepotism in the entertainment industry with her new app

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    blindspotting

    • "Blindspotting" is one of the most unique movies you'll see this year.
    • It's mixture of comedy, drama, and rap, and a powerful look at current life for many today in America while also being a love letter to Oakland.


    It was one of the movies that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival that I couldn't stop thinking about. 

    Director Carlos López Estrada's striking look at two friends in Oakland who are just trying to get through life despite obstacles like police brutality and gentrification, "Blindspotting" is one of the most unique movies of the year. 

    Daveed Diggs (who originated the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical "Hamilton") and Rafael Casal, star as lifelong friends Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal). Collin is counting down the days until he's through with probation but Miles isn't going to make things easy as his volatile ways could throw Collin right back into the system. And things get even more complicated when Collin witnesses a white police officer (Ethan Embry) gun down a black man in the back.

    Using comedy, drama, loads of Oakland references, and the rapping skills of both Diggs and Casal, "Blindspotting" is part love letter to the Town (which is having a major cinematic moment with "Black Panther" and "Sorry to Bother You") and part examination of America in 2018.

    The lifeblood of the movie is the connection between Diggs and Casal, who both penned the screenplay. Real-life friends who have now hit it big with a feature film, the two show incredible range in their performances which hits its zenith at the end of the movie when the undercurrent of race finally explodes into rage.

    Then there are the freestyle raps. One in particular, a dream sequence that explores black men and incarceration, is one of the most powerful scenes captured in any movie I've seen so far this year.

    The movie currently has a 93% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.

    See where "Blindspotting" is playing near you.

     

    SEE ALSO: 106 skydives with a broken ankle: Inside how Tom Cruise pulled off the thrilling HALO jump in "Mission: Impossible - Fallout"

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    scott kelly mark kelly as kids

    • The documentary "Three Identical Strangers" follows the story of a secret study conducted in three genetically identical siblings who were separated at birth. 
    • The study was the only twin study that followed siblings from infancy. But due to controversies over ethics, the authors never published it and the data is sealed.
    • Twin experiments can give scientists insights into how different habits, treatments, or lifestyles affect two people with the same genetic makeup.
    • In other twin studies, researchers have found that on average, environment and genetics have a 50/50 influence on a person's traits and disease. 
    • Currently, NASA is using twins to study the effects of space on humans and mice

    Twins have always fascinated scientists, especially as the subjects of studies about the influence of environment and genetics. 

    The new documentary "Three Identical Strangers," which is now in theaters, tells the story of the ultimate test of nature versus nurture: it follows three identical brothers who were separated at birth and raised by different families. 

    In 1980, two of the brothers met while attending Sullivan County Community College, and after making headlines, found the third triplet. Aside from looking alike, the three shared similar behavioral quirks and preferences.

    But they were not the only twins in the study — according to NPR, of the 13 children involved, three sets of twins and one set of triplets have discovered one another. A book titled "Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited" was published in 2007 by a pair of twins who were also involved, Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. 

    The other four subjects still do not know they have identical twins. 

    A controversial twin study

    The study was conducted by child psychiatrist Peter Neubauer and Violet Bernard, a child psychologist. They worked with the Louise Wise Agency, which matched Jewish orphans with adoptive families, to craft a secret experiment that would test how much of a person's behavior is genetically influenced and how much is environmentally influenced.

    The researchers carefully controlled which families the identical siblings ended up in, withheld information about their biological parents, and didn't tell the adoptive families that the children were twins or had siblings. Instead, they told the families that their children were being followed for a study about the development of adopted children.

    The study ultimately ended in 1980, and because of the fear of backlash and controversy over ethics and consent, Neubauer never published the results. The data is sealed in a Yale archive until 2066.

    This is the only twin study that followed its subjects from infancy, but it's far from the only time scientists have used genetically identical siblings in research. 

    Why scientists are obsessed with twins

    The annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio attracts the largest hoard of twins from all over the world. And you bet scientists are in attendance as well. 

    Conducted properly, twin experiments can give scientists insights into how different habits, treatments, or lifestyles affect two people with the same genetic makeup. Studying identical twins can also help scientists pinpoint the effect of epigenetics, or environmental influences, on gene expression and function. This can help determine if certain traits or diseases lean more heavily on genetics or the environment.  

    In history, twins have been used in research about I.Q., everyday diseases, eating disorders, obesity, developmental and psychological traits, and sexual orientation, according to Smithsonian Magazine

    In a comprehensive review of twin studies worldwide, which was published in Nature Genetics in 2015, researchers found that on average, environment and genetics have a 50/50 influence on a person's traits and disease. But certain conditions like bipolar disorder rely more heavily on genetics. 

    Today, twin studies are still commonly used. There are studies on mood and anxiety disorders as well as asthma and allergies. The Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research collects community-contributed data from twins that helps them map out mental health outcomes and examine the development of substance use and related behavior disorders. For one study, they examined personality development of twins to see whether environment or genes played a role in risk-taking behaviors that lead to substance abuse. 

    Most famous, however, are NASA's twin studies. After astronaut Scott Kelly got back from a year in space, scientists observed that 7% of his genes were expressed differently than those of his identical twinThe genes that were altered were related to the immune system, bone formation, DNA repair, and responses to an oxygen-depleted or carbon-dioxide rich environment. 

    On top of this, Scott Kelly's telomeres — the caps at the ends of our chromosomes that affects cell aging — appeared to get longer in space, but they shrunk back when he returned to Earth. His gut also hosted different bacteria, and he returned two inches taller.

    NASA recently sent 20 mice into space while their twins stay on Earth. In partnership with astronauts on the International Space Station, agency scientists plan to study changes in the rodents' microbiomes and circadian cycles. 

    SEE ALSO: NASA sent Scott Kelly to space for a year, and 7% of his genes are now expressed differently than those of his identical twin Mark

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We put the iPhone X's Face ID to the ultimate test with identical twins — and the results surprised us


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    the lord of the rings the fellowship of the ring

    There's too much to stream across all platforms, and Netflix is overwhelming on its own. Thankfully, we're here to make sure you spend more time watching movies than choosing them.

    Every week, we look through what's available on the streaming service and recommend seven movies you can watch over the weekend.

    Some of our selections recently came to Netflix and some have been available for awhile — you might have just missed them because Netflix's algorithm thought you wouldn't like them.

    From the brand-new Netflix original film "Like Father" starring Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer to "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," which jump-started the career of Chris Pine, these are some awesome movies on Netflix you can watch this weekend.

    Here are seven movies on Netflix you should check out (along with their scores from Rotten Tomatoes).

    Note: Not all of these films are available in countries outside the United States. Sorry!

    SEE ALSO: The 7 TV shows coming to Netflix in August that are worth watching

    "Like Father" (2018) — A Netflix original

    Netflix description: After she's left at the altar, a workaholic advertising executive ends up on her Caribbean honeymoon cruise with her estranged father.

    Critic score: 56%

    Audience score: N/A

    "Like Father" is as cliche as it looks. But its stars, which include Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, and Seth Rogen carry the movie and make it more powerful and exciting than it would be with anyone else. 



    "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001)

    Netflix description: From the idyllic shire of the Hobbits to the smoking chasms of Mordor, Frodo Baggins embarks on his epic quest to destroy the ring of Sauron.

    Critic score: 91%

    Audience score: 95%

    The visual effects in this incredible movie, which is one of the best book to film adaptations ever made, are still quite stunning. If you haven't seen it in a while, now's your chance. 



    "Steel Magnolias" (1989)

    Netflix description: In this bittersweet drama, a close-knit group of women congregates at a beauty parlor in a small Louisiana town to laugh, cry, and discuss life events.

    Critic score: 69%

    Audience score: 89%

    "Steel Magnolias" is as funny as it is heartbreaking, and gave Julia Roberts the chance to show off her acting skills. The movie is a career best for many involved including Sally Field and Dolly Parton. 



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Fortnite (loot chest)

    • When "Fortnite" finally arrives on Android in the coming weeks, you won't find it on the Google Play Store.
    • Instead, Epic Games says, you'll download the game directly from Epic. 
    • By skipping the Google Play Store, Epic Games doesn't have to pay Google a cut of the massive profits from "Fortnite."


    Sorry, Google: When the biggest game in the world, "Fortnite," arrives on Android in the coming weeks, it's skipping Google's Play Store.

    Instead, interested players will download the game directly from its maker, Epic Games. It's a smart move for Epic Games, who won't have to pay Google the usual 30% cut from the game's profits.

    "The 30% store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers’ 70% must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games," Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney told me in an email interview this week.

    "There's a rationale for this on console where there's enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers," he said. "But on open platforms, 30% is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service. We’re intimately familiar with these costs from our experience operating 'Fortnite' as a direct-to-customer service on PC and Mac."

    Sweeney would know, as Epic Games is already paying that "high cost" on Apple's iPhone and iPad. Apple is taking a 30% cut of all money made by "Fortnite" on iOS devices.

    Fortnite (battle pass)

    Additionally, by handling distribution and maintenance of "Fortnite" itself, Epic Games can maintain a "direct relationship" with its players, says Sweeney. 

    That said, even blockbusters like "Pokémon Go" use Google Play for distribution. It's the app store on Android, and the place where people would expect to find "Fortnite" for download.

    In so many words: What Epic is doing sounds weird because it's pretty weird. 

    It also makes a lot of sense given the position "Fortnite" is in — it's the most popular game in the world. A major reason for distributing games on Android through Google Play is discovery. How else will people find your app if it's not in the store? But people are already acutely aware of "Fortnite," and navigating to a website on their phone instead of the Google Play Store isn't a huge ask.

    As Sweeney put it: "The installation process is pretty straightforward and is only a one-time effort, so the downsides are quite small."

    "Fortnite" is expected to arrive on Android at some point this summer — Epic Games hasn't put a firm release date on it yet, but rumors point to a late August launch on Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Note 9 phone with a wider Android launch in late September. 

    SEE ALSO: In a bizarre twist, 'Fortnite' is reportedly heading to Android as an exclusive to a brand-new Samsung phone

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    xi jinping winnie the pooh

    • China denied the release of Disney's new film, "Christopher Robin."
    • A source told The Hollywood Reporter that it was due to China's crackdown on Winnie the Pooh images on social media.
    • The images have been used to criticize Chinese leader Xi Jinping after the ruling Communist Party announced it wanted to eliminate presidential term limits.

     

    The Hundred Acre Wood will not be going to China.

    Disney's new live-action take on the Winnie the Pooh characters, "Christopher Robin," will not be released in the Middle Kingdom. According to The Hollywood Reporter, which cites an anonymous source, China denied the film's release because Winnie the Pooh had become a symbol of resistance against the country's ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping.

    Earlier this year, the party announced that it wanted to eliminate presidential term limits for Jinping. This did not go over well with many Chinese citizens, who posted Winnie the Pooh memes on social media to compare the fictional bear to Jinping. It's been a symbol of criticism toward Jinping since he took power in 2013, but blew up following the announcement.

    This prompted Chinese censors to crack down on the meme on Chinese social-media apps.

    Why Winnie the Pooh? The joke is that Jinping supposedly resembles the Pooh bear in appearance. For instance, in the image below, the shorter, chubbier Pooh is walking alongside the taller, skinnier Tigger, which is compared to Jinping walking with former US president Obama.

    In another circulated image, Pooh is hugging a pot of honey. The image reads, "Wisdom of little bear Winnie the Pooh" in Chinese and "Find the thing you love and stick with it" in English.

    The Chinese social network Weibo even blocked all mentions of John Oliver and his HBO show "Last Week Tonight" last month after Oliver criticized Jinping. Oliver also said Jinping was insecure about the Winnie the Pooh images being used to mock him.

    "Clamping down on Winnie the Pooh comparisons doesn't exactly project strength," Oliver said. "It suggests a weird insecurity in him."

    "Christopher Robin" is now in theaters in the US.

    SEE ALSO: 'Christopher Robin' is surprisingly dark but captures the beloved Winnie the Pooh characters perfectly — and will make you cry

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    Magic the gathering cards

    • "Magic: The Gathering" is a wizardry-inspired card game from the early '90s that has a cult following even today.
    • Several rare, early-print editions of the cards are worth thousands of dollars, with one particularly hard-to-find card selling for close to $100,000.
    • But one investor thinks this is just the beginning of the cards' value. Get in early, he says, and you could make millions. 

    "If the Black Lotus gets $70,000 tonight, it'll be worth millions in about 20 years," Bryan Goldberg told me last week over the phone.

    Goldberg — a tech entrepreneur and self-described geek who owns a stable of media sites including Bustle, Elite Daily, and now Gawker.com — is predicting the outcome of an eBay auction underway for the Black Lotus, the most powerful card from the trading-card game "Magic: The Gathering."

    At the time of our conversation, bids for the coveted Black Lotus hover around $60,000. Goldberg is betting that the price will balloon by $10,000 in just a few short hours. If his call is right, Goldberg estimates that the Black Lotus' value will compound many times over in the coming years. By 2038, he predicts, it will be worth a minimum of $1 million.

    "Magic: The Gathering" isn't a new trend or an emerging fad like CryptoKitties. The wizardry-inspired card game came out in the early '90s and precedes Pokémon by about three years. The people who play it are "nerds, geeks, and people who grew up as nerds and geeks," Goldberg said. Today, many of those same "nerds and geeks" are tech-savvy millennials who spend thousands of dollars on select cards from their beloved game.

    "In my childhood, I was completely absorbed by it," Goldberg said. "The game today is the best it's ever been. It's a wonderful game. It's not just fun to play — there's so much nostalgia for it."

    Goldberg says he invests in the cards for the same reason he's bought up companies or bitcoin: He thinks it's going to make him a lot of money.

    Just how much money?

    "I think it will double or triple my money many times over," Goldberg said. The payoff, he says, will be similar to investments in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ether, with the potential to make early investors extremely wealthy.

    "In 2018, it's hard to think of any investment opportunity that's even remotely in the same ballpark as bitcoin," Goldberg said. "With these cards, I feel like I found an asset class that could really be huge. If this does what I think it can do, it could be a fantastic investment."

    Magic: The Gathering

    Goldberg estimates that since the '90s, billions of "Magic: The Gathering" cards have been printed, with more and more decks released all the time. Today, you can buy a 60-card "battle deck" for about $10.

    The cards' collectability emerges from a select group of early-print editions and a few cards that have been retired from print altogether.

    Some of these cards are so powerful in the context of the game that the player who holds them would almost always win by default, Goldberg explained. Because this ruined the fun for the rest of the players, the card makers agreed early on to stop printing them, making the likelihood of owning them today extremely rare.

    Many of the existing editions have been lost or badly damaged, with very few surviving in mint or perfect condition. Goldberg says he believes that only 40 mint-condition Black Lotuses remain in circulation today. While he declined to disclose the exact number he owns, Goldberg said he had bought up a meaningful percentage of the remaining first-edition, mint-condition Black Lotuses.

    Magic The Gathering Black Lotus

    This group of rare Black Lotuses might be compared to early-edition baseball cards, some of which sold for millions of dollars decades after their release.

    But the earning potential for "Magic: The Gathering" cards is even greater than for those faded sports collectibles, Goldberg said, mostly because the game is still incredibly popular.

    "It's exploding," Goldberg said. "The people who were kids when it came out are grown-ups now who have made money and can afford to buy them."

    Of course, there's the very real possibility that Goldberg could be wrong. After all, Beanie Babies were also once a highly sought-after collectible that fizzled out in popularity years later.

    But Goldberg is correct that "Magic: The Gathering" is still incredibly popular.

    If you've never heard of the game before, it might be because the community is, as Goldberg put it, "small and private." Online, however, enthusiasm for "Magic: The Gathering" is widespread.

    Magic the gathering

    On YouTube, for instance, a single video of someone buying a collection of cards for $21,000 has more than 850,000 views and hundreds of comments trailing below. It's not uncommon for videos of people opening decks of cards, brokering trading deals, or examining vintage decks to accrue hundreds of thousands of viewers.

    One video on YouTube embodies the "Magic: The Gathering" zeitgeist particularly well.

    In it, an unseen collector meticulously slices through a vintage deck with a scalpel. For 10 minutes, he painstakingly flips through the deck, card by card, his hands sheathed in blue plastic gloves so as not to damage them. Right around the eight-minute mark, the collector strikes gold: Embedded at the bottom of the pack is a mint-condition Alpha Black Lotus.

    "Holy ... blrsh!" he shouts. "That's a freaking Black Lotus! Oh my God! That's an Alpha-freakin'-Lotus!"

    With shaking hands, he starts to cry, or laugh, or maybe both.

    The video has over 6 million views. Some commenters say they've watched the 10-minute video multiple times, over and over again.

    And YouTube is only the beginning of the "Magic: The Gathering" community's pervasive online presence. Reddit, Twitter, blogging sites, and Facebook all suggest a deeply engaged community. There are in-person gatherings as well — like tournaments with thousands in attendance, Meetup groups, and themed weddings, to name just a few. (There's also a well-populated Pinterest page documenting various ideas for "MTG"-themed celebrations.)

    For Goldberg, the money is just one part of the game's appeal — a pleasant bonus he didn't quite expect.

    So, was Goldberg's prediction of the Black Lotus' value at the auction accurate?

    No. As it turns out, he was way off, by more than $15,000.

    Around 1 a.m. the night of the auction, Goldberg shot me an email.

    "Holy shit," he wrote. "~$88,000 for the Black Lotus ... that is way more than I would have ever guessed even when we were on the phone. Tonight was insane."

    Bryan Goldberg emailCameron Kunzelman, a reporter for the gaming site Kotaku, later described the $87,672 purchase as "a lot of money for a little bit of cardboard."

    "Should rarity and cultural prestige account for an $87,000 price tag?" Kunzelman wrote. "That's maybe a little bit high for me."

    Goldberg's bullish prediction that the card will one day be worth $1 million or more could end up being wrong — but the recent auction shows there's also a very real chance he's right. In 20 years, that same piece of cardboard could be worth more than a house.

    At the very least, it's a good reminder that value is relative. Maybe there's not much of a difference between precious minerals, computer-generated lines of code, and laminated cardboard after all.

    There's another Black Lotus, in mint condition, up on eBay.

    The asking price? $100,000.

    SEE ALSO: Top investors gambled $12 million on the blockchain equivalent of Beanie Babies. Now, sales are plummeting.

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    dinesh d'souza

    • Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative commentator and filmmaker whom President Trump pardoned in May, has a new documentary out with a 0% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    • D'Souza's film, "Death of a Nation: Can We Save America a Second Time?," argues that Trump is a modern-day Abraham Lincoln, and that today's Democrats are the historical successors to fascist regimes like the Nazi Party.

    Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative commentator and filmmaker who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in 2014 and received a full pardon from President Trump in May, has released a new documentary that critics are tearing apart.

    D'Souza's film, "Death of a Nation: Can We Save America a Second Time?," argues in part that Trump is a modern-day Abraham Lincoln, and that today's Democrats are the historical successors to fascist regimes like the Nazi Party.

    The documentary currently has a 0% "rotten" rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and critics have roundly criticized it as a "revisionist" take on history and modern politics.  

    "If ever there was a movie that looked as if it had been slapped together in a couple of weeks as part of a quid pro quo agreement involving a dubious-seeming criminal pardon, 'Death of a Nation' is that film," Peter Sobczynski wrote in a zero-star review of D'Souza's film for RogerEbert.com. 

    "D'Souza fails, as ever, to make an argument that would resonate outside the QAnon echo chamber," wrote The AV Club's Vadim Rizov in an "F" grade review.

    The film has resonated with at least one person close to the Trump administration. 

    Donald Trump Jr. attended the Washington premiere of D'Souza's film on Wednesday and had the following to say about the film's central thesis:

    "You see the Nazi platform from the early 1930s ... and you look at it compared to the DNC platform of today, you're saying, 'Man, those things are awfully similar' to a point where it's actually scary. It's the exact opposite of what you've been told." 

    "Death of a Nation" is now playing in select theaters nationwide. 

    SEE ALSO: All the notable people and politicians Sacha Baron Cohen has 'duped' for his new TV series, 'Who Is America?'

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    Rogue One Disney final

    • "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" star Donnie Yen explains why the franchise can't do big box office in China.
    • Yen, who is a huge star in China, has similar thoughts to what analysts believe is the reason why "Star Wars" box office falls flat in the Middle Kingdom.


    Disney can never seem to get any of its "Star Wars" movies to do well in China, and an actor from one of its movies knows why. 

    In a recent interview with JoBlo, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen, who played Chirrut Îmwe in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," gave his take on why it seems that the Middle Kingdom is the only region in the world that doesn't have "Star Wars" fever, and it matches with what some analysts have posited.

    "Chinese audiences didn’t grow up with 'Star Wars' culture so unfortunately it didn’t work," Yen said of the poor "Rogue One" performance there. "Marvel is a lot easier to understand. 'Star Wars,' there’s a whole universe out there. Marvel, from the costumes, to the music, to the idols, to the stars, it's much easier to close the gap between the film itself and the audience."

    "Rogue One" earned $1 billion worldwide at the box office, but in China, the second-largest movie market behind the US, the movie only took in $69.4 million in its five-week run.   

    solo star warsBut at least that movie had a name in the cast recognizable to audiences in China.

    "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" did even worse in China. Its five-week run there only took in $42.5 million. However, that movie went on to earn over $1.3 billion worldwide. And forget about "Solo." The standalone Han Solo movie, which made a flat (for "Star Wars" standards) $390.1 million worldwide, only made $16.4 million in China and was pulled after four weeks.

    Yen's thoughts mirror what analysts have been telling us for the last year.

    "The characters that have become iconic in other countries — in the United States Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo have been elevated to revered cult status — there is no such feeling in China and that has impacted the box office prospects there," comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Business Insider after the release of "The Last Jedi."

    "The Middle Kingdom treats 'Star Wars' like a second-class cinematic citizen," Jeff Bock, a senior analyst for Exhibitor Relations, said after the release of "Solo."

    But Disney doesn't have that problem with its Marvel properties. 

    "Avengers: Infinity War" earned over $359.5 million in China to go on and make $2 billion worldwide.

    SEE ALSO: "Christopher Robin" is surprisingly dark but captures the beloved Winnie the Pooh characters perfectly — and will make you cry

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