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  • 7:49 am

AT&T is giving users of it latest unlimited plans a new live TV service

The company has announced that its two new plans, Unlimited &More and Unlimited &More Premium, will give users access to its new WatchTV service, reports Engadget. The services will allow users to access over 30 channels plus on-demand shows across the mobile devices, computers, and media hubs. The channels include a large number of WarnerMedia offerings including CNN, TBS, and TCM. AT&T completed its acquisition of Time Warner earlier this year.

The two new plans will go live next week. The Unlimited &More will cost $70 for a single line and give users access to 480p content (seriously, AT&T?). If you want 1080p content you’ll need to Unlimited &More Premium for $80 a month. Besides the increased video quality, the extra $10 a month will also give you access to a premium service of your choice, including HBO, Showtime, Amazon Music Unlimited, or Pandora Premium.

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  • 6:37 am

Facebook will let group admins charge for membership

The social media giant has announced that it is piloting a subscription-based program that will allow group admins to charge users $4.99 to $29.99 per month for access to special sub-groups. The company says it’s doing this after feedback from some group admins that it takes them a lot of time and effort to maintain their groups:

Group admins build safe and supportive communities that people come back to every day. We know that admins invest their time and energy to maintain their groups, and some have told us that they would like tools to help them continue to invest in their community and offer more to members. Today, we’re piloting subscriptions with a small number of groups to continue to support group admins who lead these communities.

We hear from group admins that they’re looking for ways to help them earn money to deepen engagement with their members and continue to support their communities. Many admins do this today by creating an additional subscribers-only group that sits alongside their existing group, and rely on additional tools to track and collect payments. Subscription groups were created to make it easier for admins to provide these experiences with built-in tools, and to save them time so they can focus on offering members-only content.

Be aware that Facebook is only piloting this program with a small, select number of groups. Once they understand how group members feel about subscription fees, they’ll decide on whether to expand the program more widely.

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  • 6:23 am

Researchers say an earthquake emoji could save lives

Earthquake scientists are campaigning for an earthquake emoji because they believe it could help save lives during the violent natural disasters, reports Newsweek. Currently, there are emojis for other natural disasters including volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and cyclones. The scientists say that those universally recognizable emoji help save lives because people–no matter what their language–can recognize the glyphs. As Chris Rowan, a geologist at the Kent State University, told Newsweek: “If you have a symbol that everyone uses, then you can communicate that information in a timely manner.”

Of all natural disasters, earthquakes affect the most people each year. The death toll from earthquakes that occurred between 2010 and 2015 topped a quarter of a million people. The earthquake scientists are currently reaching out to designers to help with designing the earthquake emoji. Once they’ve found a suitable one, they will submit it to the Unicode Consortium.

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  • 6:12 am

Apple wants your iPhone to replace your car keys

The company is a leading member of the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), which has just announced the publication of a new Digital Key specification–that is, a standardized tech solution that would allow car owners to download a digital copy of their car key to their smartphone and use that in place of a physical key. The CCC describes its new Digital Key spec as follows:

The solution will be car and smart device agnostic. It will enable consumers to conveniently lock/unlock the vehicle and start the engine along with other interesting features. The solution will also enable provisioning and sharing of keys with properties associated with them. The Digital Key specification will be built on existing standard technologies such as Global Platform, GSMA, Bluetooth, and NFC.

Besides Apple, a number of other tech and car companies are part of the CCC, including Audi, BMW, General Motors, Hyundai, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Volkswagen.

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  • 6:04 am

Match buys Hinge, furthering its dating app domination

Match Group has announced that it has bought a majority stake in the dating app Hinge. The company acquired a 51% ownership of Hinge, with the option to acquire the remaining 49% within the next 12 months. With its Hinge acquisition, Match Group continues its dating app domination. Matter of fact, Match Group probably owns most of the dating apps you probably use on a regular basis. Match Group’s current portfolio of dating apps now includes Hinge, Tinder, OkCupid, Match, and Plenty of Fish–along with almost 40 other brands. The only major dating app Match Group doesn’t own is Bumble–and it’s likely to stay that way after the conglomerate sued the anti-Tinder dating app over alleged patent and trademark violations.

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Trump’s executive order on family separations: 3 things it doesn’t do

Trump’s executive order on family separations: 3 things it doesn’t do
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

President Trump appeared to relent under the weight of immense backlash today, signing an executive order he claims will end the much-criticized practice of separating families at the border. The move comes after days of Trump and other administration officials patently insisting that they had no actual policy of separating children from their parents—and had no authority to stop it.

The order is titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” You can read the full text here. In the meantime, as many commentators have noted, the move is not likely to quell criticism of Trump’s immigration policies or defuse much of the chaos taking place at the border.

Here are three things the executive order doesn’t do:

  • It does not end the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. In fact, it only reinforces Trump’s commitment to it. The order makes it clear the the government will continue to prosecute everyone crossing the border illegally. The biggest change here is that families will be detained together while their cases are being prosecuted.
  • It does not specifically address what will happen to families and children who have already been separated. Estimates put that number at about 2,300 children since zero tolerance began.
  • It does not require the government to stop separating families. The order simply says the administration will detain “alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources,” meaning there are likely to be a lot of exceptions.

You can read more context about the executive order here and here.

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Ava DuVernay becomes the first black woman to direct a $100 million-grossing film

Ava DuVernay becomes the first black woman to direct a $100 million-grossing film
[Photo: courtesy of Disney]

With A Wrinkle In Time, Ava DuVernay has become the first black female director whose movie grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

Of course, there have been recent success stories for black male directors, namely Ryan Coogler (Black Panther: $699 million), Jordan Peele (Get Out: $176 million), and Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip: $115 million), but DuVernay stands alone as the most successful black female director in Hollywood.

It’s a milestone worth celebrating, but one that also underscores the dismal state for black women in the director’s chair.

According to a study from USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, only four of the top 1,100 films from 2007 to 2017 had black women directors. Worse still, there were only two female Asian directors and just one Hispanic/Latina director in that same data set, compared to the 36 white women who helmed a movie. While that number pales in comparison to the opportunities afforded to white men, it highlights just how important it is to address and fix the disparity at the intersection of both gender and race.

As DuVernay said on Twitter, joining the $100 million club is a “lovely room to be in. But can’t wait for more sisters to be here too.”

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Here’s IGTV: Instagram’s vertical answer to YouTube

Here’s IGTV: Instagram’s vertical answer to YouTube
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom unveils IGTV in San Francisco. [Photo: Harry McCracken]

At an Instagram event this morning in San Francisco, CEO Kevin Systrom strode onstage and began talking about “old and outdated,” “clunky and unnatural” video services that make you watch horizontal-oriented videos on a vertical smartphone screen and expect you to search or browse to find videos by your favorite creators. The word “YouTube” never passed his lips, but there’s no doubt that Instagram is gunning for it with its new, long-rumored video service, IGTV.

Available both in Instagram’s own mobile app and a new app of its own, IGTV lets users post longer vertical videos (10 minutes for everybody to start, 60 minutes for some selected creators) and has a mostly visual interface that’s more about spending time with video from Instagram stars you like than randomly falling down rabbit holes of content. The fact that it’s available in two apps stems from the fact that many people like using the main Instagram app to flit between tiny pieces of content like photos, short videos, and Stories, and might be less inclined to pay attention to a half-hour video. “We wanted to separate the two so you can decide which adventure to go on,” Systrom said.

[Photo: courtesy of Instagram]
Instagram stars such as Lele Pons, who has 25 million followers and appeared onstage at today’s event, will presumably like the opportunity to share longer-form content with their fans. But Instagram isn’t yet doing one thing that YouTube started doing early on: cutting creators in on ad profits. Actually, IGTV is launching without any ads at all, and Instagram isn’t making direct payments to stars, either. “Right now, we’re focused on building engagement,” said Systrom, adding that Instagram always likes to start simple, ads are a logical place to go, and the company would cut creators in on any money it makes.

Many a company has tried and failed to compete with YouTube, but Instagram has some things going for it, including a billion users—a new milestone that Systrom announced at the event—and plenty of creators already making a living on the service through monetization strategies such as sponsorships. Facebook’s efforts to take on YouTube via its core platform haven’t gone very far, so IGTV may be its best bet to create the digital world’s second longform video superpower.

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Burger King Russia pulls ad that promised Whoppers to women impregnated by World Cup players

Burger King Russia pulls ad that promised Whoppers to women impregnated by World Cup players
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

Burger King’s Russian division took down and apologized for an ad on social media promising 3 million rubles (about $47,000 USD) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers to women who could get impregnated by World Cup team members.

The campaign was posted on VK–Russia’s version of Facebook–and, according to Deadspin, roughly translated into:

Burger King, within the framework of social responsibility, has appointed a reward for girls who get pregnant from the stars of world football. Each will receive 3 million rubles, and a lifelong supply of Whoppers. For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes, and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!

Burger King has since pulled the campaign and offered an apology on VK, stating it was “too offensive.”

Burger King Russia’s ad shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the fact that the company caught heat last year for using a rape victim’s likeness for promotion.

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ICE spokesperson melts down over United and American Airlines taking political stands

ICE spokesperson melts down over United and American Airlines taking political stands
[Photo: DHS/Wikimedia Commons]

Reaction to the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families continues apace. Today, a few airlines weighed in on the issue: American, Frontier, and United Airlines all announced they would not help transport migrant children who were separated from their families. All three companies essentially said the same thing–such a policy is not congruent with their values. It’s still unclear whether commercial airlines have been used in this capacity before.

Nonetheless, the statements caught the eye of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency’s spokesperson, Tyler Houlton, tweeted some angry words at the airlines.

We’ll see if the airlines respond to this tweetstorm. Or if Houlton will delete his tweets. Lately, tweets from DHS officials have not been aging well.

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United and American Airlines vow not to help the U.S. government separate families

United and American Airlines vow not to help the U.S. government separate families
[Photo: courtesy of American Airlines]

U.S. air carriers are weighing in on Trump’s controversial border separations—and they say they want no part of it.

American Airlines released a statement on Wednesday asking the U.S. government to not use its planes when transporting migrant children away from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

The airline said the family separation policy currently being implemented at the border “is not at all aligned with” the company’s values. While it has “no knowledge” that U.S. officials used American airplanes to transport the children, it “would be extremely disappointed to learn that is the case.”

Rival carrier United Airlines released a similar statement on Twitter.

Both companies say they are drawing a line in the sand for the government. “We have every expectation the government will comply with our request and we thank them for doing so,” American’s statement read.

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Bloomberg, ex-GOP mayor of NYC, pledges $80M to help Dems take House in 2018

Bloomberg, ex-GOP mayor of NYC, pledges $80M to help Dems take House in 2018
[Photo: Ralph Alswang/Flickr]

Michael Bloomberg, the media and financial titan and former Republican mayor of New York City (who became an Independent during his third-term campaign), has seen enough. Today, making clear his distaste for the politics and policies of the current “absolutely feckless” GOP Congress and president, Bloomberg said he’s throwing $80 million into the pot to help aid Democrats in taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in this November’s midterms.

According to The New York Times, Bloomberg, who often backs center-left policies like gun control, the environment, and immigration reform, is looking to out-bankroll conservative mega-donors like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged $30 million to Republican causes.

Democrats need to flip 23 Congressional seats if they want control of the House. Bloomberg’s millions will likely help with those efforts, especially in suburban districts where advertising is expensive. The Times says Bloomberg hasn’t yet decided precisely which districts to target, but will likely focus on at least a dozen, “chiefly in moderate suburban areas where Trump is unpopular,” and he’ll surely stay away from deep-red rural areas where his policies are at odds with people who support gun rights and other conservative issues.

Bloomberg has previously backed initiatives like Everytown for Gun Safety, which aims to end gun violence in America. That organization’s efforts have yet to achieve any significant national milestones, though there have been some gains at the state level.

Even as he’s contributed to candidates from both parties over the years, Bloomberg is clear that he thinks one-party control of Washington is ineffective and dangerous.

“I’ve never thought that the public is well-served when one party is entirely out of power, and I think the past year and a half has been evidence of that,” The Times quoted Bloomberg as saying. He added that the GOP has “done little to reach across the aisle to craft bipartisan solutions—not only on guns and climate change, but also on jobs, immigration, health care, and infrastructure . . . Republicans in Congress have had almost two years to prove they could govern responsibly. They failed.”

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No, Whole Foods was not hacked—here’s why its Instagram was scrubbed

No, Whole Foods was not hacked—here’s why its Instagram was scrubbed
[Photo: PollyDot/Pixabay]

Whole Foods confused its fans this week when the retailer mysteriously deleted its robust archive of Instagram images. In its place, the scrubbed account simply featured several white blank posts and changed its bio to bee emojis. It also followed only a handful of celebrities–Beyonce, Cardi B, and Sting.

Some concluded that the account had been hacked, while others hoped a Beyonce-Whole Foods collaboration was in the works. Many, however, quickly connected the dots and surmised this had something to do with state of bees.

On Tuesday, Whole Foods announced the social media campaign was indeed to raise awareness for the endangered buzzers in our ecosystem. The company partnered with Whole Kids Foundation for National Pollinator’s Week and Month to raise $100,000 for 50 new school honey beehives. The goal is to spread the word about the cause, as well as to educate the public about the importance of bees.

Recent posts, for example, feature factoids such as, “Without bees, you wouldn’t have your favorite foods” and “Did you know one out of every 3 bites of food you eat is made possible because of pollinators?” The grocery chain also built an entire section on its website devoted to “protecting pollinators.”

Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation, shared the following statement:

“We launched the Give Bees A Chance campaign because kids are often taught to be afraid of bees, but the role they play in our ecosystem is imperative and deserving of our respect and protection. One of the best ways we can teach kids about bees is through educational beehives at their schools, where they get an up-close look into the world of pollination.”

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SoulCycle just launched a new media division

SoulCycle just launched a new media division
[Photo: marybettiniblank/Pixabay]

Fans of SoulCycle will soon have more ways to interact with the cult-fave brand: The New York City-based fitness company announced the launch of a media division.

SoulCyle hired three media industry veterans–Gregory Gittrich (formerly at Mashable), Laurel Pinson (formerly at Glamour), and Angela Bowers (formerly at Vox)–to engage customers beyond the gym’s four walls. In a press statement, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan said, “Their combined digital, product, and media experience will allow us to serve our riders in new and unique ways, as well as deliver meaningful and transformative experiences around the globe that complement our studio experience.”

Programming will reportedly consist of content “and experiences using a variety of mediums, including music, video, audio and experiential events,” reports The Hollywood Reporter. Projects are slated for later this year.

SoulCycle is currently in 15 markets, with 88 studios across the United States and Canada. In the last year the brand announced its expansion into non-cycling pursuits with SoulAnnex, a studio focused on cardio, yoga, and HIIT. It also expanded on its current SoulCycle offerings with SoulActivate, an on-the-bike class that heavily incorporates high-intensity interval training.

“We say internally that it’s never been about a bike,” Whelan previously told Fast Company. “It’s always been about our rider and creating an experience for them. The bike was just the vessel.”

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Tesla is suing a former employee for leaking confidential data

Tesla is suing a former employee for leaking confidential data
[Photo: Flickr user Jeff Cooper]

Tesla is reportedly suing a former employee for hacking into the company’s databases and exporting data to third parties, according to a CNBC. The lawsuit was filed against Michael Tripp, who reportedly worked at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory. It claims he “admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla’s manufacturing operating system (‘MOS’) and to transferring several gigabytes of Tesla data to outside entities.”

Tripp, according to the lawsuit, allegedly also coded a way for this data to be systematically exported to people outside of Tesla. The lawsuit alleges that the former employee lied to the press about Tesla’s business.

I reached out to Tesla and will update this story if I hear back. You can read the full CNBC story here.

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How to help separated families: 5 things you can do that take less than 5 minutes

How to help separated families: 5 things you can do that take less than 5 minutes
[Photo: John Moore/Getty Images]

The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy is taking children from their parents at the border, and it’s heartbreaking. The images and audio of confused, scared children crying out for their parents from cages have rightfully dominated the news cycle, as more and more people protest and speak out. If you’re feeling outraged and want to stop a cruel policy that violates the UN’s guidelines for human rights at international borders, here are five things you can do in less than five minutes:

  1. Call your member of Congress. Call 202-224-3121. State your zip code. When connected, tell them “I live in ___. I support SB3036, the ‘Keep Families Together Act’.”
  2. Use ResistBot to text your members of Congress. Text RESIST to 50409 and it will help you contact your elected officials.
  3. Donate to ActBlue, which splits donations between 12 different groups giving the most bang for your donation buck. Money goes to groups including, Al Otro Lado, The Florence Project, The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, We Belong Together, and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Donate here
  4. Contact ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) by writing them here or call them at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. Register complaints with the Department of Homeland Security.
  5. While money is best, if you want to donate essential items like diapers, wipes, shampoo, and soap directly to immigrant children, Baby2Baby and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) set up a baby registry at Target.
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United Airlines risks snack-lash after getting rid of stroopwafels on some flights

United Airlines risks snack-lash after getting rid of stroopwafels on some flights
[Photo: courtesy of United Airlines]

First they came for the airline meals. Then they came for the pillows, blankets, and free headsets. Then they started charging to sit near the front of the plane, and airline passengers accepted it all as part of the cost of air travel. But now United Airlines is coming for the stroopwafels—and that may be a step too far for customers.

News of this snack-based snafu comes courtesy of journalist Ethan Klapper and a press release that touts a new food item entering United’s “complimentary snack rotation.” That item is a maple wafer cookie created for the airline by Byrd Cookie Company, which is all well and good, except it will take the place of stroopwafels in the snack rotation (at least on domestic flights departing before 9:45 a.m.). 

Per the press release, the decision was made due to “Google Trends data” that showed an increase in maple searches, so yeah, blame the wellness crowd for looking up all those maple cures! 

Based on responses to Klapper’s tweets, the change isn’t going over well. While United claims the stroopwafel will be available again in the future, for now, it will only be available on flights departing Europe prior to 9:30 a.m. That is, if customers let them get away with this. One thing United surely doesn’t need is yet another customer-service crisis. After this stroopwafel calamity, let it be known that Delta Airlines will pry the Biscoff cookies out of our cold, dead hands.

A United spokesperson offered the following comment:

“Our new maple wafer was created especially for United Airlines by a woman-owned bakery with deep American roots. We have introduced this new inflight snack into our complimentary snack rotation so that we could offer customers a new option that is based on the current maple flavor trend that is becoming increasingly popular in a variety of food and beverages.”

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Atul Gawande, New Yorker’s prize-winning writer, tapped to head Amazon-led healthcare company

Atul Gawande, New Yorker’s prize-winning writer, tapped to head Amazon-led healthcare company
[Photo: Amar Karodkar/Wikimedia Commons]

In an amazing decision that won lots of praise, Atul Gawande—a New Yorker writer and surgeon who won a MacArthur fellow for his work conveying modern medical practices and ethics, was chosen to lead the new healthcare company set up by Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway. The company, which has ambitions to redefine how healthcare is delivered by employers in this country, will be based in Boston, where Gawande lives, and will operate “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.” He starts his new job on July 9.

Gawande, who has won praise and two National Magazine Awards for his elegant and explanatory prose on an incredibly confusing and contentious subject, came on the radar of Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger with his 2009 article, “The Cost Conundrum,” about cost variances in healthcare in McAllen, Texas. Munger was so impressed that he sent $20,000 to Gawande, who promptly donated the money to charity.

In a statement, Gawande said:

I’m thrilled to be named CEO of this healthcare initiative. I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending both in the US and across the world. Now I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all. This work will take time but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible.

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5 ways to help refugees on World Refugee Day 2018

5 ways to help refugees on World Refugee Day 2018
[Photo: courtesy of UNICEF]

According to UNICEF, over 50 million children around the world are currently on the move, 28 million of whom have been forcibly displaced by conflict and violence. Many are traveling with their families, but many others are on their own, making their way to places they can only hope will offer them better, safer lives.

Around the world, 5.3 million people have fled the conflict in Syria that has entered its eighth year, 4 million people have been displaced from their homes in South Sudan, 4.1 million have been forced to flee violence in the DRC, and since late August, more than 655,000 Rohingya–nearly half of whom are children–have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State into Bangladesh.

Here are five ways you can help the world’s refugees on World Refugee Day, or any day:

  • UNICEF works on the ground to protect children in crisis. They take care of basic needs like offering food and water along refugee routes, creating child-friendly spaces in refugee camps, and places where women can rest and take care of their babies. Donate here.
  • In the U.S., sign up to volunteer at a local refugee resettlement office here.
  • If you have legal experience, or are looking to gain some, join the International Refugee Assistance Project or learn more about it here.
  • Doctors without Borders, a.k.a. MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières), works around the world to provide important medical services to refugees. Click here to learn more about donating your time or money.
  • Sign up to host refugees through Refugees Welcome. You can volunteer to provide shelter to refugees by renting to them or offering to invite them in and room with them, kind of like Airbnb. The organization will even help you pay your rent and cover extra utilities.
  • Send a letter to a refugee through CARE. Find out more here.
  • Support businesses owned by refugees and companies that support refugees.
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AMC is taking on MoviePass with $20 subscription plan

AMC is taking on MoviePass with $20 subscription plan
[Photo: Flickr user Paul Sableman]

The world’s largest movie exhibitor will let people see three movies a week if they subscribe to the $19.95 a month plan, reports Variety. The subscription plan is known as AMC Stubs A-List, and AMC says it addresses the criticisms it previously harbored for MoviePass’s subscription service. Specifically, AMC says three movies a week is an economically sustainable business model, whereas it has previously likened MoviePass’s $9.99 a month subscription, which gives users access to a movie a day, to a house of cards.

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