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The successful business world of Antonio Banderas | Culture

In January 2017, Antonio Banderas suffered a heart attack that changed his life. That was the day the 61-year-old Spanish actor decided to return home to Málaga, leave the Hollywood stress behind him and pursue his lifelong dream. In 2019, he launched Soho Theater, where he returned to the stage with the musical A Chorus Line. But the theater – which has an annual budget of close to €7 million ($7.88 million) – is just the tip of the iceberg of Banderas’s long-term plan. The actor is also planning to build a second stage for experimental theater, an auditorium and a technical school for theater production and management. Meanwhile, he has also created a television production company, a symphony orchestra, and opened four restaurants. A jazz club is also set to be added to the list. Banderas has 300 employees, a strong real estate portfolio, and his work in films such as Uncharted and Indiana Jones 5 helps him balance his accounts. “Now I know that everything is possible in Málaga,” he said during the premiere of Company, his second musical, in which he directs and stars.

Banderas has always been linked to Málaga, his home city, but now he has intensified his involvement in local life. He lives downtown in an attic he bought in 2014, although he also has a house in Marbella. Meanwhile, he has sold his Los Angeles mansion, which he shared with former partner Melanie Griffith, for €14 million ($15.75 million), while his house in London is on the market for €3.51 million ($3.94 million).

Since returning to Málaga in 2019, he has participated in numerous events, such as the switching on of the city’s Christmas lights. He is a regular at the Starlite Festival held in the area, takes part in Easter processions as a member of a coalition of religious brotherhoofd named Cofradías Fusionadas and is even considering becoming a shareholder of Málaga’s soccer club. He is known worldwide, and his very presence has had a great economic impact on the city.

“He has boosted bookings. He’s the excuse for many of our clients to come and stay for several days. I wish there were more Antonio Banderas in other cities,” says Yeyo Ballesteros, communications manager for the hotel chain Room Mate. “His commitment to Málaga is beneficial for us; it gives us great visibility,” adds Francisco de la Torre, the mayor of Málaga.

The actor has his own perfume line, multiple real estate properties in Spain’s Costa del Sol and his company, Glassmore Investments, has capital of €8 million ($9 million). Soho Theater, however, is at the center of his future plans. “He may or may not be liked on stage, but his entrepreneurship is unquestionable,” says Javier Domínguez, Banderas’s brother and right-hand man. “He keeps us all on our feet,” he says, laughing.

Domínguez is the manager of his brother’s companies and theater, a dream that has been long in coming. Banderas thought first about opening a theater in Madrid in 2000, but ended up losing a million euros. In 2004, he became interested in the auditorium that was planned for Málaga’s western area but that didn’t work out either. And in 2017, the actor almost fulfilled his dream after winning an auction for a plot of land in Plaza de Merced square, which he abandoned due to all “the insults, personal attacks and humiliating treatment” of local politics.

Banderas finally achieved his dream when Alameda cinemas agreed to rent the movie theater to Banderas for €225,000 a year ($253,000), a cost that is covered by the Antonio Banderas Theater Foundation, which also paid for the site to be completely renovated. “When I die, I won’t be able to take any money with me,” he said in an interview with EL PAÍS.

The 800-seat theater has allowed Banderas to bring renowned Broadway productions to Málaga. The latest show to hit the stage is Company, a musical with a cast of 14 people and 26 live musicians that cost €2 million ($2.25 million). The economic risk is high, the show has to sell out to cover the costs. But Company has succeeded just as A Chorus Line did. More than 40,000 people have attended its first 50 performances. It is the only chance to see Banderas on stage. When the show travels, another actor replaces him. The strategy works. Half of the audience in Soho Theater comes from outside of Málaga. Ticket sales are key to paying the 200 theater workers, including the cast of A Chorus Line, who are now in Madrid. It was in the Spanish capital where a Covid outbreak paralyzed performances for a week, leading to losses of €800,000 ($899,000). The health crisis has been his biggest headache. “What is the worst that can happen if you buy a theater? A pandemic? Well, there it is,” the actor said.

Antonio Banderas has boosted bookings. He’s the excuse for many of our clients to come and stay for several days

Yeyo Ballesteros, communications manager for Room Mate

During Spain’s home lockdown, while theater workers were placed on the government’s ERTE furlough scheme, Banderas got to work on other projects. He created an audiovisual production company, and premiered a TV show on Amazon Prime. Then came the 2021 Goya Awards (Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars), a campaign for Málaga’s provincial government and a spot for the Giants, an eSports team. Now he is producing Las Tres Puertas (or, The Three Doors) for Spain’s national television broadcaster, TVE.

In the last six months, Banderas has also opened three restaurants – Atrezzo, La Barra de Doña Inés and Doña Iñes – which are all located next to Soho Theater. This has required an investment of €3 million ($3.37 million) and around one hundred new employees. The restaurants attract diners from the theater, which as well as putting on Broadway musicals, also hosts performances and concerts. Banderas began in the restaurant business in 2017, acquiring the premises and part of the shareholding of El Pimpi, a classic Málagan restaurant. This venture was done in partnership with Pablo Gonzalo, who is also his partner in the three new restaurants. The team put in a tender for the management of the restaurant Casa de Botes, but ended up withdrawing it. Now they are planning to open a jazz club near the theater. The Soho neighborhood has come alive thanks to Banderas. “He acts as a point of great interest for the city,” says Rebecca Evans, manager of the ICON Malabar hotel.

As Banderas searches for land to build his theater school, auditorium and experimental theater, he is also promoting films such as Uncharted, which also stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Soon he will be doing the same for Official Competition and he is also set to travel to finish the shooting of Indiana Jones 5. He makes few trips to Hollywood these days, the million-dollar paychecks last a while. “Theater doesn’t pay. It is in the movies where money is made,” clarifies his brother, who emphasizes that the theater project is non-profit. “If there are profits, they are reinvested in the next show,” explains Domínguez. The project receives no public aid, but it does count on many sponsors. CaixaBank is his main partner, but El Corte Inglés, Metrovacesa, Málaga Towers, Cervezas Victoria, Vithas and Porcelanosa also contribute. Málagan companies also provide support in exchange for certain privileges, such as attending an annual dinner with Banderas in one of his restaurants. It all adds up.

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How Emergence of AI-Generated Virtual Twins Is Revolutionizing The Fashion Modeling

Emergence of AI-Generated Virtual Twins

The Voice Of EU | In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion modeling, a groundbreaking innovation has emerged: the creation of virtual twins through the power of artificial intelligence (AI). This technological advancement has already made waves in the industry, exemplified by the case of Alexsandrah, a renowned model who has seamlessly integrated her AI counterpart into her professional endeavors. The implications of this development are far-reaching, reshaping not only the creative landscape but also the economic and ethical dimensions of the fashion world.

Alexsandrah, known professionally by her first name, stands as a pioneer in this new era of modeling. She proudly shares that her digital twin mirrors her appearance “even down to the baby hairs,” blurring the lines between reality and simulation. This symbiotic relationship between the human model and her AI counterpart signifies a transformative shift propelled by AI technology.

Advocates of AI-generated modeling argue that its increasing prevalence promotes diversity and inclusivity within the fashion industry. By showcasing a wider range of body types and underrepresented demographics, AI models empower consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions, ultimately reducing fashion waste stemming from product returns. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of digital modeling presents economic opportunities for both companies and individuals seeking to leverage this innovative technology.

However, amidst the promise of progress, critics voice concerns regarding the potential ramifications of AI modeling. The displacement of human models, makeup artists, and photographers looms large, raising questions about job security and ethical implications. Furthermore, there is apprehension that unsuspecting consumers may be deceived into mistaking AI models for real individuals, undermining transparency and authenticity in the industry.

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect

Sara Ziff, a former fashion model and founder of the Model Alliance, underscores the pressing need to address these concerns. She highlights the risk of distorting racial representation and marginalizing models of color through the uncritical adoption of AI technology. Indeed, data indicates that women, especially those from underrepresented groups, are disproportionately affected by the advent of AI in modeling, further exacerbating existing disparities in the industry.

The case of iconic denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. illustrates the nuanced stance that companies are taking towards AI-generated models. While initial experiments with AI models aimed to diversify representation, backlash prompted a reevaluation of their approach. Levi reaffirmed its commitment to live photo shoots and human models, signaling a cautious approach to AI integration in its operations.

Despite varying responses from industry players, the demand for AI-generated models continues to grow. Companies like Lalaland.ai, founded by Michael Musandu, are at the forefront of this technological revolution. Musandu emphasizes the complementary nature of AI models, envisioning them as supplements rather than replacements for traditional photo shoots. He underscores the potential of AI to enhance the shopping experience, reduce product returns, and create new job opportunities within the industry.

The journey towards ethical AI implementation in fashion modeling is fraught with challenges, as highlighted by the experiences of models like Yve Edmond. Concerns regarding consent, compensation, and labor rights underscore the need for robust regulatory frameworks. The Model Alliance advocates for legislative measures to safeguard the rights of fashion workers, including provisions for informed consent and fair compensation in the realm of AI modeling.

Amidst the complexities and controversies surrounding AI-generated modeling, individuals like Alexsandrah navigate this new frontier with a sense of optimism tempered by vigilance. By fostering transparency, ethical use, and equitable compensation, AI has the potential to expand opportunities for models of color and revolutionize the fashion industry. As stakeholders grapple with the ethical and economic implications of this technology, the journey towards a more inclusive and sustainable future for fashion modeling continues.


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— By Darren Wilson | Contributor VoiceOfEU.com

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Top 10 most profitable places in Britain for holiday rentals

The most profitable locations in Britain for holiday rentals has been revealed – and the majority are not located anywhere near a beach.

Staycation favourite Cornwall is top of the rankings, with an average price per night of £84 for a room and £117 for a whole house.

A total of 476,910 bookings were made via popular holiday rental companies in the area last summer, according to analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the money website Wealth of Geeks.

The figures suggest that holiday lets in Cornwall took bookings worth £40million between the beginning of July and the end of September last year.

However, most of the top 10 are located in inner London, the research showed.

The most profitable locations for buy-to-let have been revealed, with staycation favourite Cornwall at the top of the rankings

The list of top ten places also includes several areas in London, including Westminster in second place.

The average price of renting a holiday let in Westminster is £133 a night for a room and £435 for a house.

With 304,790 holiday let bookings, it produces a revenue for the area in the heart of London’s west end of £34,441,270 for the summer period last year.

The calculations were based on bookings on Airbnb, Booking.com and the Expedia Group, with data taken from the Office for National Statistics.

The rental prices, meanwhile, were taken from Airbnb across 388 British towns, and the total revenue was calculated by multiplying the number of nights with the nightly cost of a room on Airbnb.

The revenue did not take into account any costs of running a holiday let, such as repairs and maintenance, nor did it factor in property prices.

All of the remaining locations in the top ten were in London except for one on the south coast.

This was Brighton and Hove, where average rental prices per night were £100 for a room.

In total, the data suggested that the British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023.

Michael Dinich, of Wealth of Geeks, said: ‘Holiday rentals play a vital role in the UK’s tourism industry by supporting local economies, providing accommodation to enhance visitor experience, and promoting tourism in diverse regions across the country.

‘Tourism also helps to promote awareness of lesser-known areas, helping to distribute tourist spending more evenly across the country.

‘While some destinations may experience seasonal fluctuations in tourism often in the summer months, holiday rentals attract visit year-round, helping to sustain economies and businesses during off-peak seasons.’

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in this year's Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in this year’s Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped

The findings show that those looking to invest in the holiday lets market need to do their sums carefully before taking the plunge and committing to a particular area.

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, explained: ‘This data shows that it’s not just the prospect of beaches and more reliable weather which drives profitability.

‘It’s not just traditionally popular holiday destinations which produce the best returns so it’s vital that would-be landlords do their research carefully before investing.

‘The ability to make money depends on supply and demand, not just the attributes of an area.

‘At what level a landlord can rent their property for, after taking into account all expenses, is key and explains why areas such as Westminster and Camden are proving profitable, where they may lack the charm of a traditional UK holiday destination such as Cornwall.’

The British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023, according to the latest data

The British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023, according to the latest data

Tax crackdown

The data on the most profitable holiday lets follows a crackdown on the sector by the Chancellor.

Jeremy Hunt announced in this year’s Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped to help improve the availability of long-term rentals.

The move is due to come into force at the beginning of April next year and is widely seen as a way of bringing the tax regime of shorter-term lets more in line with longer term rentals.

Experts operating in the sector insisted that holiday rentals remained in demand ahead of the changes.

Graham Donoghue, of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: ‘Staycations have been growing in popularity over the past decade and right now demand for our UK holiday cottages is higher than ever, with the average annual income of a holiday let owner up as a result.

‘Hotspot locations like Yorkshire, Cumbria, and Cornwall continue to see considerable demand and bookings across the UK for our holiday cottages have been up 11 per cent during the current Easter school holidays.

‘The demand we’re witnessing is particularly good news for our holiday let owners who have faced their own set of challenges recently. Despite changes, which we are carefully guiding our owners through, it’s clear that holiday letting remains a profitable and rewarding long-term business model.’

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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema

Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.


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