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'I thought a lot of people had forgotten about the Moolah' | What's ahead for St. Louis' arts and entertainment industry

When St. Louis leaders decide to reopen the city, the big screen at Moolah Theatre will remain dark. Others are unsure what their schedules will look like

ST. LOUIS — When St. Louis leaders decide to reopen the city, the big screen at Moolah Theatre will stay dark.

Owner Harman Moseley said they have decided to close when years of unstable ticket sales combined with social distancing orders and a looming recession.

"It's not the first time I have been at this crossroads," Moseley said. "I mean, I was at this crossroads three or four years ago because I could see the trend."

When the Moolah opened in 2004, it was ahead of the rest of the industry with bar service and more comfortable seating. But large chains have caught on to the popularity of additional amenities, and the single-screen theater faces increasing pressure from streaming services like Netflix.

News of the Moolah's closure sent film fans to cinema's social media accounts with words of support, while other cultural institutions worry about what the next months hold.

"I'm really touched. I'm really kind of surprised because I thought a lot of people had forgotten about the Moolah, judging from the gross sales," Moseley said with a laugh. "I didn't know that people felt that way."

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra leaders announced Thursday they are postponing and rescheduling all concerts and events through June 6.

The symphony holds roughly 320 events a year, recently shifting as much of its content as possible online.

"The media platform that we're creating is strong, and it will continue to develop and evolve," SLSO Executive Director Marie-Helene Bernard said.

SLSO artists have filmed at-home concerts while Bernard outlined plans for future virtual events.

"We had educational concerts that were going to take place mid-May," Bernard said. "Understanding that kids can no longer come to Powell Hall, we have transformed into an online experience where students can actually videotape themselves performing, and we'll have a competition and a pool of people looking at videos. And we'll share those online with our community."

Sheldon Arts Foundation Executive Director Peter Palermo said his organization received federal funds from the Paycheck Protection Program — money he calls "a lifeline" — while they run various scenarios for the next fiscal year.

"If we offer to move an event back to November... who knows what November is going to look like," Palermo said. "Every business is facing this. We're not unique. But what makes us unique is that we are in the business of gathering people together, and that's the last thing that's going to really be permitted to happen."

Palermo said the Sheldon receives about half of their operating budget from ticket sales and special events; the other half comes from donations. At SLSO, the ratio leans more heavily towards donors.

Moseley said with the Moolah's closure, he will focus on STL Cinema's other two properties: The Chase Park Plaza Cinemas in Central West End and MX Movies & Bar in Downtown St. Louis.

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