Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Plans to reopen Bournemouth's Imax 'eyesore'

The seafront Imax building in Bournemouth
The Imax theatre building has been mostly empty since 2005

A part-empty 3D Imax cinema building, blocking a Dorset seafront view, could be set to reopen just days after plans were revealed to pull it down.

Bournemouth Borough Council has agreed to buy the building, deemed an "eyesore" by residents, for about £7m.

It had unveiled plans to demolish the complex, but the cinema's operators, Sheridan Group, wants to capitalise on the success of 3D blockbuster, Avatar.

Sheridan said it still holds a 150-year lease to operate the cinema.

The council said it would now seek a compulsory purchase order for the site.

The building opened as a state-of-the art Imax cinema in 2002, but closed in 2005 after having problems showing 3D films.

It had been developed to offer an all-weather attraction to tourists visiting the seaside resort.

Last week, the council announced plans to demolish the site after taking "advantage" of the recession to purchase the building from owner Nilgosc for £7m.

'Big releases'

The building, regularly dubbed one of the country's ugliest, is mostly empty, with only three restaurants still operating.

But operator Sheridan Group has now indicated its intention to reopen at the "earliest possible opportunity", despite the council's purchase.

It said it wanted to capitalise on the success of Avatar, which has become the fastest selling movie of all time taking $1.859bn (£1.15bn) at the box office.

A scene from the film Avatar
Avatar has become the fastest selling movie of all time

Chairman Peter Curistan said he was "confident" the business could be revitalised.

"Our original Imax operation was probably five or so years too early, there just wasn't the availability of quality films which could attract the audiences required to provide financial viability," he said.

"That situation is now changing and we are confident that increasingly 3D films will be the choice of the studios for their big releases."

Councillor John Beesley, deputy leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, told BBC News he believed the announcement was simply a "negotiating tactic".

He said: "I think it stretches credibility to suggest that Sheridan could possibly succeed in reopening the cinema, a cinema they closed several years ago and have shown no interest in reopening until now."

The council is due to complete its purchase of the building from long-leaseholder Nilgosc on 1 February.

A spokesman for Nilgosc said he was unable to comment on the purchase or why the building had not been redeveloped since 2005.

The building is now likely to remain intact for up to 18 months due to a lengthy process of negotiations.

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