I SAT perfectly quiet, rooted to the spot by the powerful emotional manacles of fear and excitement as I mustered up the courage to snatch intrepid glances through fingertips clasped tightly to the front of my face.

Ahead lay perils like a tapestry of danger, depicting an image of almost certain death.

Beasts roamed the badlands before me; some towering behemoths able to squash a fully-grown man as though it were a bug, others with razor-sharp sets of teeth glistening with the patina of pre-lunch saliva and faces that wore expressions of menace and instinctive murder. One even lured its human prey with an invitingly colourful cowl before spitting a venomous tar-like substance directly in its face.

The year was 1993, and I was a child watching Jurassic Park at the Odeon cinema.

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Like myself, many of us have wonderfully vivid, albeit frightening, memories of the movies we saw at the much-loved picture house.

As the cinema nears what would have been it’s 85th anniversary, the Daily Echo explores the things you may not know about the long-gone theatre and once landmark of Southampton.

Built in 1934

The cinema started life as the Regal when it was originally opened in June 1934.

The doors were officially flung open by Captain Sir Arthur Rostron, who had lived in West End Road, Southampton, and had been hailed a hero by the nation when, 22 years earlier, he was the master of the Cunard liner Carpathia which saved so many survivors from Titanic.

The picture house was built on the site of the old Alexandra - an ex Philharmonic Hall dating back to 1865.

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Gracie Fields helped draw the crowds

Along with Sir Arthur, singing legend Gracie Fields helped open the building and attracted such a colossal crowd of fans, a mounted policeman was required to help control the swelling mob.

The first film shown was Love, Life and Laughter starring Fields herself.

The new cinema provided 1,700 seats for movie-goers - 1,000 in the stalls and 700 in the balcony.

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It had a popular restaurant

Not only did the cinema show some of the biggest box office movies of its time, but was also well known for its small restaurant, popular with infrequent patrons as well as a troupe of loyal customers.

The latter would often visit the eatery for its home cooking and cosy atmosphere, even if not watching a movie.

The restaurant, which was the last to be run by the Rank Organisation, was closed during a renovation in May 1981.

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Taken over by Odeon in 1937

First owned by County Cinemas, a small chain that also included the Plaza in Northam, the Regal was taken over by the Odeon group in April 1937.

The cinema’s name didn’t change until but didn’t change its name until April 1945.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty proved popular

In 1948 attendances were enormous, with 25,000 people paying to see Danny Kaye in the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in just one week.

The film is regarded as a classic and spawned a remake in 2013, written and directed by Ben Stiller.

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Shut for modernisation in the 1960s

In the 1960, the Odeon underwent a major modernisation programme, including the installation of new 70mm projection equipment and the latest sound system incorporated in the auditorium.

It was at this time the Odeon’s organ, once such an important part of the entertainment, was dismantled bit by bit, new seats and carpet were fitted, and the entire place redecorated.

The cinema was reopened May in 1962 when the film HMS Defiant was attended by the then-Mayor of Southampton, Robert Joseph McGuirke

Before the movie began, McGuirke inspected a detachment of local Royal Sea Cadets on parade outside.

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Implemented more screens

Further modernisation took place later in the 1970s when the auditorium was split into two screens.

Odeon 1 had the capacity to sit 756 people, while Odeon 2 provided seats for a further 576.

The closing of the restaurant in 1981 made way for the smaller screen Odeon 3.

Showed more than just movies

From the 1960s onwards, management explored a variation of alternative entertainment in a hope to pull in the crowds.

These events included a pop show from Billy J Kramer and Dakotas in 1964 and a televised fight between Mohammed Ali and Joe Bugner in 1975.

Jurassic Park was the closing movie

Steven Spielberg’s prehistoric dinosaur film Jurassic Park was the final presentation at the picture house on September 5, 1993.

The Manager, James Tilmouth had the sad task of locking up for the final time.

Odeon’s imposing facade was swept away swiftly after closure in preparation for the construction of new shops.

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