Small Town Life by Martin Schell – Part 4

This is an excerpt from  Martin Schell’s book Small Town Life: Fishguard in the 1960s and 1970s

The Studio cinema

The cinema was completely remodelled and refurbished during the early 1970s, and a competition was held at Fishguard County Secondary School for the children to suggest a new name for the cinema. 

The Studio cinema opened in March 1972, had 252 seats, and was promoted locally as ‘The luxury West Coast cinema’. 

The first film to be shown in The Studio was the 1968 adaptation of Oliver, starring Mark Lester, Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, Jack Wild and Harry Secombe, and within a few weeks of the cinema opening I’d been there to see Little Big Man, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Up Pompeii.

The Studio was very effectively managed throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s by an Oxfordshire couple, John and Pearl Smedley (later ably and enthusiastically assisted by their son and daughter, John and Denise).  John Snr and Pearl had previously managed a cinema in Bicester, but when bingo started to become popular at that venue, they left in order to remain in cinema management.  In early 1975 The Studio was featured in the popular current affairs television programme Nationwide as very much a ‘one man and one woman’ operation. 

John Smedley (kneeling) and Pearl Smedley (sitting), in front of the shimmering curtains at The Studio cinema, 1975

The Studio ran films from Sunday to Saturday, and the Smedleys could always be relied on to show the most up-to-date films in a clean and comfortable environment. Flying cigarette ends and unhygienic toilets were a thing of the past.

The Studio closed briefly in the early 1990s, and a major refurbishment took place in 1994 which saw the uncharitable removal of the balcony (rather than renovation) on the grounds of health and safety/fire risk.  The Smedleys left in 2000, which was the end of an era to the many friends they made during their tenure.

The building has since been a local performance venue run primarily by volunteers, which sometimes shows films, and it receives deserved and popular support. 

I returned to the cinema for the first time since 1987 (when I’d seen The Living Daylights) on 8 February 2014 to see For A Few Dollars More at the Spaghetti Western Festival. The volunteer staff were exceptionally enthusiastic, and the cinema was warm and generally well appointed. But those seats! I’ve never shuffled in a seat as much in my life in an attempt to get comfortable, but that wouldn’t stop me going back again. No way! It’s a cracking little venue, and a credit to the town. Long may it remain open.

Martin Schell

Martin Schell grew up in Fishguard in the 1960s and 1970s, and lived here until 1989. This is an excerpt from  his book Small Town Life: Fishguard in the 1960s and 1970s, available on Amazon Kindle and a snip at £2.50.  Other titles by him are available there too.

Kitty Parsons

Kitty Parsons

Kitty is an incomer, with five summers under her belt and the knowledge that even the wettest and greyest of winters have not diminished her love of Pembrokeshire. She knows she will never live long enough to be considered a local but hopes to leave some small mark through writing about this beautiful county and its people.

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