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American Movie House Shows World Cup Drama


The 2006 World Cup football tournament is underway in Germany and fans all over the world are following the action, live, on television. But some U.S. soccer fans are leaving the comfort of their homes to watch broadcasts of matches on a giant-screen at an old movie theater in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington.

The Old Town Theater's white marquee, which juts out over the sidewalk on King Street, advertises the attraction inside with three words printed in dark letters -- World Cup Daily. Some people don't notice it, like one elderly passerby, who is asked if she's come to see the game.

"Not today, thank you," the woman replies walking away.

A middle-aged man in a business suit making his way to the theater door says he wants to see the Americans in a World Cup game so much that he made up a story to get out of his office in the middle of the workday. He says he told his boss he had a dental appointment.

"My boss definitely knows I have an 'appointment,' indeed," he smiles.

"To see the World Cup?" he's asked.

"No, just an 'appointment.'"

"An 'appointment' that lasts two to two and a half hours?" he's pressed again.

"An appointment," he laughs and walks into the theater.

Inside, there are a lot of people who've decided that watching the game is more important than whatever's usually on their weekday schedule.

Kelly Cronin -- a self-described soccer mom, is with her son and seven other boys -- soccer teammates in a local youth league, ages 9 to 12. The boys are supposed to be in school the last week of the school year. But Kelly Cronin says the World Cup is a good-enough reason to skip a day. "This is a special day. They got to leave school to come and watch USA play, which is fun. They're all very passionate about soccer," she says.

Their sneakered feet dangling over the cushioned seats, the children -- many of them outfitted in their team soccer shorts and t-shirts -- stare unblinking at the larger-than-life TV images on the giant screen.

Old Town Theater Manager Roger Fons likes the local turnout. Nearly 200 people, he estimates, adding, "I think it's going to be pretty cool."

The kids, who are chanting -- USA! USA! -- are asked to sum up what they think of the wide-screen sport spectacle from the vantage point of front row seats. " Pretty cool! I think it's awesome just to watch soccer," one says. "I'm really into soccer, and I've played it for a long time," says a teammate, adding, "I've never watched soccer on a screen this big." One of the boys adds that they're sitting in the front row because we don't like tall people in our face.

The rest of the fans are grownups sitting in the many rows behind the kids. Hans Tresolini, 40, and his wife Christine, say this is one of their daily visits to the theater for the TV games. They're planning a trip to Germany for the finals.

Christine says the trip will be their soccer honeymoon. She describes Hans -- and the way he plays soccer for a local amateur league -- as passionate. "It's graceful and like ballet. Hans is very graceful on the field, and I really enjoy watching him," she says. "If you look at the Brazilian team for instance, there's a certain dance and movement that goes on that is, I think, what Hans emulates on the field."

With a smile, Christine says she enjoys watching a lot of the players, not just the game. "They're very good-looking gentlemen who play," she says. "They're in top shape. It requires a lot of physical strength to play. I think the women of the world are in touch with that. I'm not holding onto a secret here."

But here, in the Old Town Theater in Alexandria, Virginia, it's becoming increasingly obvious to many in the audience that the American team will not win.

The crowd is growing increasingly frustrated at what they see on the German soccer field. But at least one of the fans is heartened by what he sees in the Old Town movie theater; people young and old -- of various races and ethnicities -- united one afternoon with other people from the city -- and around the world for the love of a game. "I see a cross-section of folk who are very much Americans," he says. "You know, I think it's a great thing that we as Americans - that our attention and appreciation of soccer has gotten to the point where you can fill up a theater in the middle of the day. That says a lot."

Still, one of the boys in the audience, Sam Sommers, 9, sitting in his mother's lap, is very disappointed. "USA are not doing very good. They just let goals go by," he says. His mother says, "There are other games. You [people, in general] keep trying. They need to pick themselves up and try again."

The American team loses, three to zero -- but in this movie theater, at least, the World Cup game -- which looks and sounds a lot like it does in the German stadium -- brings disparate people together, stirs passions, and even teaches a little boy a big lesson in life.

The Old Town Theater in Alexandria, Virginia, is showing several World Cup matches throughout the tournament.