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Moolah Theatre Closes Permanently; Pandemic Fast-Fowarded The Declining Theater's End

The crowd before the lights went down at Late Nite Grindhouse's Jan. 20 showing.
File photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio
The Moolah Theatre and Lounge, which opened in 2005, has been closed during the coronavirus crisis. But it won't reopen when St. Louis officials lift the stay-at-home order, the theatre's owner said.

The Moolah Theatre and Lounge will not reopen once the coronavirus crisis ends.

The theater at 3821 Lindell Blvd. has been in business for 15 years but in recent years has seen declining business and higher overhead costs. It closed because of the stay-at-home order in St. Louis, but its declining fortunes would make it difficult for St. Louis Cinemas to reopen it, owner and operator Harman Moseley said.

St. Louis Cinemas only has enough revenue to keep open its two other theaters, the Chase Park Plaza Cinema and MX Movies and Bar, Moseley said.

“For me and for my family, it's honestly been nothing but a big success, but it’s just not an economic success for us anymore," Moseley said. “But it’s exactly the same, only on a different scale for the big chains — they too have a similar situation."

The closing will not affect Moolah Lanes bowling alley, which is operated by another entity, Moseley said. But he said the company would have to lay off the Moolah’s employees. 

“I know some people are hurt; we’ve tried to give gift cards to our staff for Walmart and Schnucks because we know that these people depend on these jobs,” Moseley said. “It breaks our heart because we know that we suffer."

The revenue St. Louis Cinemas lost during the pandemic exacerbated its financial predicament and spelled an early doom for the Moolah, Moseley said.

The theater company had expected to close the theater temporarily and reopen it once the city lifted its stay-at-home order.

Moseley said he was hopeful for all three theaters a couple months ago due to several high-profile film releases this spring. Many of those film premieres have since been postponed or released online by studios.

“We were optimistic; this has disrupted everything, now we don’t know when we’re going to reopen," Moseley said. “We don’t know if we’re going to reopen in two weeks, or whether it’s going to be two months or whether if we reopen in two months we’ll have to close again. We don’t know when customers are going to feel comfortable going to sit in movie theaters.”

The Moolah was built in 1913 for the Shriners International society. The organization left the building in the 1980s. The space was rehabbed by Restoration St. Louis, a company that revitalizes buildings to restore the building’s architecture. St. Louis Cinemas opened the space into a single-screen movie theater and lounge in 2005.

Moseley said he plans to focus on the two other theaters and keep them viable.

“In these economic times, we can’t afford to spread ourselves this thin. We’re in survival mode now,” Moseley said. We’re going to focus on keeping the Chase and reopening the Chase, and hopefully it will come back to normal at some point.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.