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The successful business world of Antonio Banderas

The Spanish actor has 300 employees, real estate businesses, a production company, four restaurants, and even his own perfume line

Antonio Banderas, en un momento del musical Company, en el Teatro del Soho de Málaga.
Antonio Banderas, during the musical ‘Company,’ in Soho Theater in Málaga.García-Santos

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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