How necessary is ‘t Hoogt? 4.5 tons of subsidy for about a hundred visitors per week

The Utrecht city council will meet about De Machinerie next Thursday. This intended center for visual culture in the Werkspoorkwartier came to a premature end last year. The Board of B&W pulled the plug on the multimillion-dollar project due to rising costs. The decision led to relief and disappointment within politicians. The relieved parties want to know on Thursday where things went wrong and why the, in their eyes, unholy road was followed for so long. The disappointed parties (GroenLinks, PvdA, Student en Starter and D66) are looking for alternatives to the available Machinery resources. They refer to the combination of various parties such as the NFF, Fotodok, ‘t Hoogt, which in different ways, still provide visual culture with great added value for the city.

The parties will be supported by alderman Eva Oosters, who regretted the decision and spoke of a huge number of great opportunities and good energy at De Machinerie. Good energy in a building where no stone had yet been laid?

It is only logical that there will be an evaluation of the De Machinerie project. How realistic were the plans? What has development cost so far?

The fact that the parties are not resigned to the fiasco and want to use the millions earmarked for the Machinery for a similar adventure shows a remarkable persistence. Why do they want this anyway? For the most obvious explanation we come back to ‘t Hoogt.

Under the guise of an empty concept such as visual culture, the Machinerie, together with the NFF and Fotodok, would become the new location of ‘t Hoogt. Of those three parties, only ‘t Hoogt was looking for a new location. It is not for nothing that the name was changed to Hoogt on Tour after the departure from the city center. To give ‘t Hoogt some right to exist, the Machinerie turned out to be a perfect life buoy. Will ‘t Hoogt now go down floundering? It doesn’t look like that yet. The unprecedented lobbying power of the former movie theater is still at work.

When a few weeks ago the future of Magazijn De Zon (the former building of the library and bookshop Broese) was discussed in the council, PvdA councilor Hester Assen wondered whether there was no room there for a cultural institution that currently has no accommodation . What setting would she have in mind?

More concrete was Marlijn Beukema, business director of De Utrechtse Muziekschool. The center is under fire from politicians because it is said to be too little visible. In a letter to the council, Beukema took flight and suggested that ‘t Hoogt would be an excellent party on Domplein. Read a quote from her letter to the council here.

“Now that the Machinerie has no passage, this offers opportunities to raise Domplein 4 to the same level as, for example, TivoliVredenburg and the Library with part of the reserved funds. The plans are already there, but part of the funding is missing. These renovations are necessary to turn Domplein into a truly vibrant place. The DOMUS association is set up in such a way that parties such as ‘t Hoogt could join the association. In short: an opportunity to achieve various objectives of your council.”

A remarkable letter, because why should the sympathetic music school suddenly be drawn to the level of TivoliVredenburg? The supporters of ‘t Hoogt within the coalition will have read it with attention.

One more question remains. What has ‘t Hoogt (good for 4.5 tons of subsidy per year) added to cultural life in Utrecht in recent years?

The picture is not impressive.

The core activity of ‘t Hoogt nowadays takes place in a cinema room with 49 seats in the library on the Neude. According to official figures, there are an average of about 100 visitors per week. The price of a ticket is 10 euros, just like in a non-subsidized cinema.

‘t Hoogt’s mission sounds ambitious: “We have a range of quality films that cannot be seen anywhere else in Utrecht and that the market does not provide. The films that Hoogt on Tour shows are always special: in cinematography, story, subject, cultural background or a combination thereof.”

The reality is that films are shown in the Library that can also be seen in the LHC, Springhaver and Slachtstraat film theatres. Examples: on January 11, the film ‘Close’ can be seen once as a special film in ‘t Hoogt, in LHC ‘Close’ has been running for weeks. ‘Best of IDFA on Tour’, which screens in ‘t Hoogt, can be seen nationally in 50 other theaters and locally in the LHC.

So what is ‘t Hoogt’s Unique Selling Point? Could it be this sentence on the site?

A meeting in and around the cinema can lead to a shared emotion, a heated debate or a new idea.”

‘t Hoogt is entitled to an annual subsidy of 4.5 tons up to and including 2024. It is advisable to determine whether the “shared emotion” for about 100 people a week is worth this amount and whether taxpayers’ money could not be better spent in times of crisis.

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