It was the dream that began as a design doodle which went viral.
And it has become reality for Montrose with the red carpet opening of the new £3.5 million Playhouse cinema and arts complex in the town’s former swimming pool.
As it welcomed the first VIP visitors for two red carpet nights ahead of Friday’s public unveiling, the long-awaited 25th 007 movie, No Time to Die was the opening blockbuster.
But it was the remarkable transformation of a building bought for £1 which left guests shaken, stirred – and smiling at the return of the movies to Montrose.
The Playhouse project began life as a simple regeneration idea for a community cinema in 2013.
It was the brainchild of local architect David Paton, whose hypothetical design post caught the public’s imagination.
David said: “I’ve always been a huge fan of film and the arts and would often sketch out plans for a cinema in old, disused buildings in Montrose.
“When the old swimming pool became surplus to requirements I went to work re-imagining the building and posted my designs online.
“Within a few hours around 500 people had ‘liked’ the post and there were calls to try and make this design a reality.
“A week later the Montrose Playhouse Project was born and the rest is history.”
An associate director of Crawford Architecture in Montrose, David added: “The committee have worked tirelessly over the last nine years to bring this project to life.
“It’s amazing to now be here and we just can’t wait to see what the public reaction to it is.
“All through this long journey the benefits to Montrose and the surrounding area have been at the forefront of our thoughts.
“We’re just delighted that there will be such an excellent resource at the heart of the community.”
In 2017, the committee purchased the disused building from Angus Council for £1.
More than 80 volunteers helped strip the building back to a shell in a DIY SOS-style community effort.
Their hard work saved some £250,000 and around six months of time.
Works were delayed by the pandemic before main contractor Bancon Construction moved on to the site last year.
The 13-month project has seen the conversion of the former pool hall into the three screening rooms with a combined capacity of just under 400.
The Playhouse also features education and exhibition facilities, retail space and a café bar.
Red carpet opening nights were arranged as a thank-you to those closely involved in the project, including many local sponsors.
A supporters’ brick walk of fame sits at the entrance to The Mall attraction.
Cinemagoers can even take a foyer seat on the pool’s old starting blocks.
They are among a host of original features retained as a reminder of the building’s original role.
First through the doors was 76-year-old Elizabeth Burnside, who ran a carpet shop in Montrose with her late husband, George.
She said: “Every day George used to leave the shop at 11 and come here until 2 to swim.
“He loved the old pool and used to joke that if people came into the shop asking for him I wasn’t to tell them where he was!
“It’s beautiful what they have done with the building, really lovely.”
Venue manager Matt Buchanan said: “This is going to be so much more than a cinema and will really be a facility the whole community can use.
“We can’t wait to see the Playhouse become a much-loved institution in Montrose and the surrounding areas just as the swimming baths were before it.
“The whole ethos of the Playhouse is about social inclusion and the programme will include screenings which are both dementia and autism friendly, as well as helping to combat social isolation.”
Montrose councillor and Angus communities convener Mark Salmond hailed the “tremendous achievement” of the old pool’s transformation.
He said: “I pay tribute to all the Angus Council officers who worked closely with the Playhouse project team to ensure their dream became a reality.
“It is a superb example of council and community working together.”
Award-winning Montrose filmmaker Anthony Baxter, a patron of the Playhouse, said: “The latest Bond film opening back in cinemas is a joyous moment for the return of the big screen.
“But to have Britain’s newest cinema and arts complex open on my own doorstep in Montrose is the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of.”
Mr Baxter’s most recent production is to receive its European big screen premiere at the Playhouse this weekend.
Eye of the Storm charts the final years of renowned Scottish landscape painter James Morrison, who settled with his family in Montrose in 1965.