TEN years ago, Bournemouth’s most controversial attraction closed unexpectedly ahead of the Easter holidays.

No one knew it at the time, but Imax movies had been seen in the town for the last time.

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The official line was that the auditorium of the giant screen cinema was being refurbished in time for it to reopen that summer. But the reopening never happened and eight years later, the building was demolished.

Bournemouth’s most derided building was officially called the Waterfront and contained a host of leisure businesses, but colloquially it tended to take the name of the cinema technology used by its biggest tenant – Imax.

The Pier Approach site, where the building stood, was first developed in Bournemouth’s Victorian boom years. A collection of buildings contained public baths and a series of shops supplying the seaside visitor.

But those buildings were swept away in the mid-1930s to make way for a big project – the town’s municipal swimming baths.

Opened in 1937, the baths were more than a place to swim. They also housed the aqua shows which were a fixture of the town’s entertainment scene for decades.

Further up Bath Hill, there remained a row of Victorian villas, whose demolition in the 1970s upset conservationists.

After the opening of the BIC, with its new swimming pool and wave machine, in 1984, the fate of the swimming baths was sealed, and the building was demolished in 1986.

There followed quite a few years of nothing.

The site was used as a car park and for fairground rides, but efforts to get something built there repeatedly fell down. That frustrated the town’s tourist industry leaders, who argued that the site was ideal for the wet weather attractions the resort needed.

Talk of an Imax cinema on the site first arose in 1988. Imax movies used giant format film to project razor-sharp images on enormous screens, often in 3D. The one at Bradford, in what was then called the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, had been impressing audiences for several years.

A leisure scheme including an Imax, casino, bars, restaurants and rides received outline planning permission in 1996. By the time a detailed application was submitted the next year, the height of the building had grown by 17ft.

The crucial planning application attracted only two public objections – and neither of those were about the height of the building.

Nonetheless, a row broke out when the planning committee deferred a decision on the scheme, saying it needed a traffic impact assessment and more details on a list of other points.

Council leader Douglas Eyre believed that this kind of prevarication was giving Bournemouth a reputation as a difficult town to do business with. He called a special council meeting with the aim of getting the plans through – and hours ahead of that meeting, the planning committee capitulated.

The Waterfront building went up in the winter of 1998-99 – but as soon as its steel skeleton took shape, the complaints began coming in.

The objectors voiced outrage that the view of Poole Bay, as seen from a car heading down Bath Hill towards the Pier Approach, had been blocked.

Defenders of the building argued that it was not substantially bulkier than the swimming baths that had once stood there. When both the baths and the Victorian villas existed, there would have been a very limited view of the bay, they pointed out.

What’s more, nobody was protesting about the Pier Approach flyover itself, which had existed since the 1970s and was no work of beauty.

But for more than a decade, people had enjoyed the unencumbered view across the site, and thousands were unhappy with the development.

And if developer Sheridan was hoping to win people over, it would have helped if the building had been open on time.

The scheduled opening date of July 1999 came and went. Other businesses – restaurants, a KFC and a nightclub – opened later that year, but there was no sign of the Imax.

Sheridan was at one point thrown off the project by Nilgos, the pension fund which held the lease – only to be brought back months later.

It was not until March 2002 that the public finally had a chance to see the cinema’s 62ft by 82ft screen and hear its astonishing sound system. But the venue’s problems were far from over.

Running an Imax was an expensive business if you wanted to vary the programme at all.

Operators had to buy the films, rather than rent them as mainstream cinemas do –which meant the same few titles tended to stick around indefinitely.

At that time, all the films on the programme were under an hour long. While they included some breathtaking footage of mountain climbs and space missions, a trip to the Imax would set a family back around £20 and was over quickly.

Within a few years, the likes of Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan would be shooting sequences in Imax, but that came too late for the Sheridan Imax. It was already closing four days a week out of season in January 2003. Plans to boost business with live events, regular 35mm films and showings of Grease and The Sound of Music came to nothing because clauses in the lease prohibited it.

With the Imax closed and most of the other businesses in the building following suit, Bournemouth council eventually pledged itself to getting rid of the building. It bought the Waterfront for £7.5million in 2010 and evicted the remaining tenants, including the Harbour Lights pub and Wacky Warehouse that had been soldiering on since 1999.

Bournemouth council asked the public what should be done with the building, but the most popular answers – a swimming pool and an ice rink – were ruled out as unviable. The council decided to demolish the building as an interim move until the property market picked up sufficiently to make a permanent attraction possible.

When the building finally came down in 2013, it gave way to an outdoor performance area.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gave the first of those performances that summer.

Its programme, ironically enough, was made up of film music.