More than a dozen film-goers were forced to flee an Essex cinema when a fire interrupted their viewing.

The fire caught hold as customers of the Odeon in Chelmsford were watching the Green Mile, starring Tom Hanks, last Tuesday (April 4).

One film-goer said the screen suddenly went blank and he and the rest of the audience were ushered towards a fire exit by staff.

When outside, they turned a corner and walked into a dense cloud of thick smoke.

Also evacuated were diners from a next-door restaurant.

Fire prevention officers have visited the building, which has suffered extensive damage and has only been open since December. Loss adjusters Property and Casualty Services estimate the damage at around £800,000.