Louis Hartlooper Complex
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The Louis Hartlooper Complex (known locally simply as ‘LHC’) is a cinema and cultural centre in the city of Utrecht. This initiative, from filmmaker Jos Stelling, is housed in the former Tolsteeg police station, a national monument in the style of the Amsterdam School. City architect J.I. Planjer designed the building in 1927 at the same time as the adjacent bridge and tram stop.
Construction of the cinema, designed by Vertex architects, had to bear in mind the building’s listed status. While three of the auditoriums are in the original building, two were created, one on top of the other, in the courtyard, where there is also an extensive bar area. The work took two years.
The complex is named after Louis Hartlooper (1864-1922), a well-known and colourful person from Utrecht’s film history. From 1909 he was employed at the Vreeburg and Rembrandt cinemas. As an ‘explanator’, he explained what the film was about during the screenings of the (silent) film images, adding emotion and drama to enhance the screenings. A bust is on display.
The LHC was opened on 5th September 2004 by Louis Hartlooper’s 84 year old son, Louis Hartlooper Jr.
Reflecting owner Jos Stelling’s love of the movies, three 35mm projectors (two Phillips and one Bauer, none of which were used at the LHC) are on display on the upper floor, and old tip-up seats line either side of the corridor leading to Screen 3.
My visit took place as part of a European Laurel & Hardy Convention. In a recreation of the Louis Hartlooper era, a silent comedy short featuring Oliver Hardy, “A Bankrupt Honeymoon”, was shown in Screen 1, on 35mm, accompanied by Daan van den Hurk on the cinema’s piano – and city guide (and L&H fan) Ton van den Berg, who acted as ‘explanator’, translating the Dutch intertitles and adding emotion and comedy asides. This provided a wonderful opportunity to experience this unique style of presentation.
Seating capacities are: Screen 1:201, 2:106, 3:81, 4:56 and 5:26.
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