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The operators of the luxury Moolah Theatre in midtown have finalized plans to open a three-screen cinema in the downtown Mercantile Exchange building. The projected opening date is April 2012.

Locally owned St. Louis Cinemas has reached a deal with Connecticut-based Spinnaker Real Estate, which is redeveloping the 11-story building at Sixth Street and Washington Avenue. The Mercantile Exchange, built in 1919, was most recently the Dillard's Department Store anchor of the defunct St. Louis Centre Mall. Spinnaker's $150 million development would also include a hotel, housing, retail and a blues museum.

The ground-floor museum project will be headed by Todd George, a former executive of Lumière Place and River City casinos in St. Louis, and Bob Santelli, a former executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

The movie theater will be on the second floor of the building, with a view facing west on Washington Avenue. Harman Moseley, who operates the St. Louis Cinemas chain that also includes the Chase Park Plaza, Galleria and Granite City theaters, says the new venue will up the ante on his bet that luxury amenities can lure adult moviegoers out of their homes.

The $3 million theater, to be designed by local architect Salim Rangwala, will have three screens, an adults-only admission policy, leather love seats, a full-bar and restaurant menu, and all-digital projection and sound that could accommodate 3-D and special-event programming.

Moseley said he was encouraged by the success of the AMC Mainstreet 6 in downtown Kansas City.

Locally, the Wehrenberg and B&B chains have installed adults-only luxury cinemas inside venues in Chesterfield and Wildwood.

Downtown has not had a movie theater since 2003, when the 10-screen theater at Union Station ended a 14-year run. The twin-screen Stadium Cine closed in 1982.

"By this time next year, visitors and residents in downtown St. Louis will have an incredible new entertainment option," Moseley said. "It should rival anything in the country."