Throughout the period the Sex pistols were active there had always been an intention to produce a film based around the band.
Why the Past Perfect tense? Well, notice the very first word in the sentence. It's a preposition (meaning "from beginning to end of") related to "the period". The actual duration is further qualified by the following phrase "the Sex pistols were active" (I think 'p' ought to be capital, but let's leave it for now). Combined all those words give you the adverbial phrase leading into the main clause:
there had always been an intention to...
It could stand on its own, too, but the presence of the adverbial phrase helps understanding the reasoning behind the use of Past Perfect.
If you search for explanations of Perfect tense applications, you can find this or that, but the most informative post was made canonical, and you need to study it. No doubt, there is a lot to take in.
Let's imagine that the Sex Pistols are still active today, and that they started being active some time ago (doesn't matter how long). We call that time "the period the Sex Pistols are active". From the beginning of that time up until now people often expressed desire to see a film based around the band, so we can presume the intention is also there, and it didn't just spring into existence, it appeared soon after the Sex Pistols became a phenomenon. Moreover, that intention did not disappear after it first happen to pop into somebody's mind.
For such continual presence from some moment in the past up to now we use the verb "be" in Present Perfect tense:
the intention has been...
Shift that whole situation in the past. The Sex Pistols were active for some time (they are not active now). That is "the period". Starting pretty much from the beginning of their activity until the very end we saw the intention to produce a film. What verb do we use? Why, "be" of course. In what tense? In Perfect tense. But not Present perfect tense. It becomes past perfect by rules of backshifting.