The day it rained popcorn: a barmy army proclaim their matinee idols

The matinee session at the Odeon Leicester Square combined the terror and tension of The Blair Witch Project with a level of audience participation to rival The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

With nerves jangling, about 2,000 fans filed into Britain's largest cinema auditorium to find complimentary England scarves on their seats.

While the house lights were up, the throat-clearing and popcorn-munching suggested that the occasion might be a damp squib. But those fears proved unfounded when darkness fell and the England team lined up against their rivals.

The first 10 rows stood for the national anthem, ignoring indignant cries for them to sit down. All of a sudden, the normal rules of cinema etiquette had been kicked into touch.

The show proved to be a hit with the crowd, which was made up of competition winners and West End office workers ushered in off the streets shortly before kick-off.

When David Beckham bloodied Kily Gonzalez' nose with a surreptitious elbow, there were roars of mirth. Then, when Beckham scored from the penalty spot on 44 minutes the crowd rose in unison to the sound of several klaxons – and it began to rain popcorn.

"We haven't had a roar like that since Ali put Foreman on the canvas,'' the cinema manager, David Hilton, said, referring to the "Rumble in the Jungle'' heavyweight boxing duel between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman, one of the last live sports events screened by the Odeon in 1974.

The half-time queue of adrenaline-charged young men outside the lavatories seemed to suggest that where there is a widescreen television and alcohol, an ad-hoc "barmy army" congregates.

In the mezzanine bar, the scene of much air-kissing and refined behaviour during countless film premières, fans calmed their nerves before the second half with a hastily sunk bottle of beer.

Danny Nutt, an actor, said: "The atmosphere's brilliant – it's like 10 pubs rolled into one in there. When Beckham scored I got popcorn all down my back.''

Emma Clark, an accounts director for a West End advertising firm, said: "It's great in the cinema because you can get a seat. It's got the atmosphere of a pub, but the difference is you can see the screen.''

When the fans filed back for the second half, it quickly became clear that the earlier fun had given way to tension. In front of the stage, an army of scarf-waving fans drank their nerves away, while others held with white knuckles onto the arms of their chairs.

At the final whistle, the audience stood and several children scampered down the aisle towards the screen.

Dominic Williams, a mathematics student from University College London, said: "It was brilliant in there – like having your own soft-furnished football terrace. But the last 15 minutes were unbearable. I haven't squirmed like that since I last saw The Shining.''

As the lights came up scores of cleaners set about removing football fans' detritus before re-opening the doors to a pre-teen hoard of Spider-Man devotees. But by then the afternoon had already been given over to a different breed of super-heroes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future