IT should have been one of the most spectacular entertainment experiences ever enjoyed in Bournemouth.

A screen 62ft tall and 82ft wide, a projector using giant-format film to deliver astonishing picture quality, and a near-perfect sound system.

And in the mid-1990s, the smart money seemed to be on Imax being the attraction that would pull in visitors when the weather was being typically British.

Yet it didn't work. It was more than two years late opening, the building was pilloried for spoiling a prime view, and not enough people tried the Imax to prevent it closing quietly one day and never re-opening.

Bournemouth council has since spent millions knocking down the Waterfront complex to get back what was there before - a big empty patch of land.

Was the Imax just ahead of its time?

It was in 1995 that the developer Imry had worked up a scheme for the former Pier Approach swimming baths that included an Imax, a casino, bars, restaurants and rides.

Imry later pulled out of the scheme and was replaced by Sheridan, whose revised proposals won outline permission in 1996.

By the time detailed planning permission was sought in 1997, the height of the proposed building had grown by 17 feet.

When the town's planning committee deferred a decision, there was outrage from the tourism industry and the council's leadership. The committee met again to approve the application and a special meeting of the whole council the same night approved it by 35 votes to seven.

But the Imax's problems were far from over.

The Imax saga: a timeline

When the building began to take shape in the winter of 1998, residents were shocked by the scale of it.

And it might have been easier to win over the critics if there had been some sign of it opening.

The scheduled opening date of July 1999 came and went. Other attractions began to open in the building - but without the footfall the Imax itself was supposed to bring.

Several more opening dates came and went before the Sheridan Imax finally screened Cyberworld 3D to an invited audience on March 19 2002.

Sheridan's boss Peter Curistan said that night: “I think now we've delivered you a world class facility in a town which I must admit I've grown to love.”

But the following year, eight staff were laid off as the company decided to close the cinema for four days a week in the winter. Bournemouth council only learned about it through the Echo.

Plans to hold live entertainment in the Imax were scrapped when it turned out that a clause in the building's contract prevented it.

Imaxes elsewhere were struggling too. Sheridan's first Imax, in Dublin, had closed in 2000 and Birmingham's followed in 2004.

In 2005, the Imax closed for a refurbishment in advance of the Easter holidays - and was never to re-open.

Sheridan was thrown out by its landlord later that year, beginning years of debate and frustration over the site's future.

In January 2010, Bournemouth council bought the building for £7.5million.

It asked the public what should be done with the site. But the public's favourite suggestions - a swimming pool and an ice rink - were immediately ruled out as unviable.

The idea was that the building would be partially demolished in order to improve the views.

But last year, the council decided to bulldoze it entirely and create an outdoor events area. The plan was an interim one, intended to tide things over until the property market picked up sufficiently to make a permanent attraction possible.

Any new developer will have to ask themselves what kind of attraction might bring thousands of people to the Pier Approach on a wet day. It's the same question that faced the town in 1995.