The Senator Theatre will go to public auction today with "moderate" interest from potential bidders, according to a spokesman for the auction house Alex Cooper.

"A lot of the interest is under the radar screen," said Paul Cooper, a vice president at the auction company. "I've gotten calls."

Cooper would not say how many people have contacted him or who has asked about buying the theater's roughly $1 million mortgage.

Some city officials have fretted that nobody would come forward to purchase the ailing theater, but Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon predicted that there will be bidders. "That is a pretty good piece of property in a great neighborhood," Dixon said Tuesday.

The city purchased the theater's mortgage in May after the owner, Thomas Kiefaber, was unable to make payments on a $1.2 million loan that the city had partially guaranteed.

Loyola College may bid, said Courtney Jolley, a spokeswoman. She declined to say how the college, about 1.5 miles south of the Senator, would use it. The college recently completed an $80 million capital fundraising campaign, but annual contributions are down 20 percent.

Another possible bidder is James "Buzz" Cusack, who has operated the Charles movie theater for the past 16 years. "I'll be there," Cusack said. "It is a beautiful, beautiful building." Cusack said he would add a cafe to the venue and show current-run movies.

The auction will start at 11 a.m., probably last about 15 minutes, and likely will be held in the theater's auditorium. The opening price and the bid increments will be determined shortly before the sale starts, Cooper said. Bidders must bring a $50,000 deposit to participate - the check is held only for the winning bidder.

Baltimore Sun reporters Childs Walker and Peter Hermann contributed to this article.