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Personal Services

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Personal Services
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Jones
Written byDavid Leland
Produced byTim Bevan
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byGeorge Akers
Music byJohn Du Prez
Distributed byVestron Pictures
Release date
  • 3 April 1987 (1987-04-03) (London)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$2.7 million[2]
Box office$5 million (UK/USA)

Personal Services is a 1987 British comedy film directed by Terry Jones and written by David Leland, about the rise of a madam of a suburban brothel which caters to older men. The story is inspired by the real experiences of Cynthia Payne, the "House of Cyn" madam.


Christine Painter is a sexually naïve waitress and single mother who pays for her teenage son David's tuition by renting London flats to call girls. When a landlord confronts her for illegally subletting the flats and falling behind on the rent, Christine gives him a handjob in lieu of rent. After one of her "tenants", Rose, refuses to pay rent, Christine realises she can do sex work herself in the flat Rose abandons.

Christine is charged with soliciting and pleads guilty in court. Soon she hatches a scheme with fellow sex worker Shirley to provide strictly kinky services such as bondage and fetish roleplay to an upscale clientele. They rent a suburban house, where they are joined by their "maid" Dolly.

Christine attends her sister's wedding, where Dolly is accidentally exposed as transvestite to the groom's mother. Christine's father and sister angrily denounce her for spoiling the wedding.

Christine's father later visits the brothel for sex and reconciles with his daughter. The brothel enjoys brisk business, but soon attracts the notice of the police, who raid the house on Christmas Eve.

When Christine appears in court to be arraigned, she is relieved when she realises the judge is one of her main clients; she then imagines the courtroom filled with all of her clients as judges.



Personal Services opened at five cinemas in central London on 3 April 1987, and was the highest-grossing film in London for the week, with a gross of £57,775.[1][3] It reached number one nationally in the UK after 10 weeks of release and was number one for two weeks.[4] The film was the second highest-grossing British film of the year in the UK, behind only The Living Daylights, with a gross of £1,952,017 ($3.2 million).[5][6] It grossed $1,744,164 in the United States and Canada.[7][8]


The film was banned in the Republic of Ireland upon theatrical release (although the ban was lifted two months later). At the time, there were four films that were banned in Ireland, and Jones had directed three of them (Personal Services, Monty Python's Life of Brian, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life).


  1. ^ a b "The Week Ahead". The Times. 28 March 1987. p. 18.
  2. ^ "15 years of production". Variety. 14 December 1998. p. 102.
  3. ^ "International Boxoffice". Variety. 15 April 1987. p. 34. $93,595; $1.62=£1
  4. ^ "Top Films and Video". The Times. Screen International. 26 June 1987. p. 22.
  5. ^ "UK Top 50 Films in 1987". Screen International. 2 January 1988. p. 10.
  6. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 27.
  7. ^ Personal Services at Box Office Mojo
  8. ^ Olins, Rufus (24 September 1995). "Mr Fixit of the British Screen". The Sunday Times. London, England: The Sunday Times Digital Archive. pp. 9[S]. Retrieved 29 March 2014.

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