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The Louis Hartlooper Complex (LHC) is initiated by filmmaker Jos Stelling and is located in a former police station. By looking at old schools and churches, Stelling came across the vacant Tolsteeg police station in 2001. A national monument built in the Amsterdam School style. City architect J.I. Planjer designed the building in 1927 at the same time as the adjacent bridge with quay wall and tram stop.


Stelling managed to buy the unique building from the municipality, with the aim of turning it into an arthouse cinema. When the plans, in consultation with Vertex architects, began to take shape, the enthusiasm grew. In order to fit in multiple cinema rooms, a thorough renovation was necessary, while the structure of the building could not be changed due to the monumental status. In the courtyard of the old police station, a construction was built which stacked two cinema rooms on top of each other plus a foyer. After a 2-year renovation, Louis Hartlooper was opened on September 5, 2004 by the proud Louis Hartlooper jr., The 84-year-old son of the “explicateur” (see below) after whom the theater is named.


Louis Hartlooper (1864-1922) is a well-known person in Utrecht’s film history. From 1909 he was employed by the Vreeburg cinema and the Rembrandt cinema. During the screenings of the (silent) films, Hartlooper explained in word and gesture what the film was about. Because of his explanations, these film screenings became events that attracted many people.


The Nieuwsch van den Dag stated the following: “An explanation by Louis Hartlooper elevates a cinema screening and brings it to life.”


Louis Hartlooper has five cinema rooms showing arthouse cinema, world cinema and classics, among others. We also host debates, courses and exhibitions. Louis Hartlooper is one of the most successful arthouse cinema’s in the Netherlands and one of the cultural icons of Utrecht.



The short documentary “Van Bajes tot Bios” (From Prison to Movie Theatre), by Roos Stelling, displays the making of Louis Hartlooper in just over 20 minutes. A fascinating narrative of how director and cultural entrepreneur Jos Stelling transformed an empty police building into a buzzing arthouse cinema. An arthouse cinema – which has since grown into a dynamic cultural meeting place – that has become a vital part of Utrechts cultural scene. Watch the entire documentary below.


ten year anniversary LOUIS HARTLOOPER COMPLEX


View the booklet “Jos Stelling over – Tien Jaar Louis Hartlooper Complex” (Jos Stelling on – ten years of Louis Hartlooper Complex) by clicking on the images below.


  • Opening Louis Hartloper complex

  • by Bob Collins, vintage print, 1950s


The "Explicateur"

The “explicateur” provides an explanation to a film. However, they do not express an opinion: after all, the best critic is you. The explicateur selects and explains films that matter. Do you want to see a film with an explanation from an explicateur? Daily from 7 pm to 10 pm at Louis Hartlooper.