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'Senna' documentary accelerates at the box office

August 15, 2011

"Senna," a documentary about Brazilian race-car driver Ayrton Senna, has gotten off to a speedy start at the box office.

The film, which opened in one theater in Los Angeles and another in New York this past weekend, collected $66,075 for a solid per-theater average of $33,038, according to an estimate from distributor Producers Distribution Agency.

"Senna" is the second release for the company founded by John Sloss' Cinetic Media last year when it distributed the Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop" from the street artist Banksy. "Senna" explores the legendary driver's rivalry with French competitor Alain Prost, and is told entirely through archival footage.

Since premiering to positive buzz at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the film has played well overseas, where Formula One racing was founded and is extremely popular. The documentary, being released overseas by Universal Pictures, has opened in seven foreign markets, including Australia and the United Kingdom, and has grossed $7.2 million there. The movie is slated to open in Mexico, New Zealand and Korea over the next few months.

Meanwhile, "Senna" will expand to 11 markets stateside next weekend. Sloss said he believed it would have strong word of mouth.

"We knew we'd get a lot of motor racing enthusiasts, but there were also a lot of women who we saw in theaters," he said of the opening weekend. "This film has always appealed disproportionately to women — it plays better with them than even motor sports fans."

— Amy Kaufman

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