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“Senna” movie breaks box office records on UK opening
“Senna” movie breaks box office records on UK opening
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jun 2011   |  1:50 pm GMT  |  84 comments

The film about the life of Ayrton Senna has broken the record for the highest grossing opening weekend for a documentary film in British cinema history. And its success means that more cinemas will start showing it from next week.

Pandey (right) with director Asif Kapadia

The film opened in UK cinemas on Friday June 3rd and took $614,000 for the weekend (£375,000), which is a new record for a documentary. For comparison the acclaimed documentary “Touching the void” had gross sales of less than a third of Senna in its opening weekend.

Senna has received rave reviews from critics, with Jeremy Clarkson calling it “unmissable” and BBC movie critic Mark Kermode describing it as one of two “must-see” films this year. It has also had a great deal of publicity in the last couple of weeks, as audiences and media have cottoned on to the visceral quality of the film and its compelling storyline. It seems the film has strong crossover appeal with non-F1 fans equally moved by the treatment.

“We’re overwhelmed, ” said the film’s writer and executive producer Manish Pandey. “The Senna film has come home to the UK and it’s wonderful to see joy with which people receive it.

“We knew we were making something special and it’s great that British fans agree.”

Universal have responded to the demand for the film by opening it in more cinemas across the UK from next week. Details of the scale-up will be announced shortly by the company.

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Just saw it here in Australia over the weekend. Very well done, took me a few hours to clear the head after it was over. I had a night off in Imola ’94 after what had happened to Ratzenberger the day before, so didn’t see the race.

What I hadn’t seen before was the Donnelly accident at Jerez. That was just awful. Also the footage of Eric Comas at Spa, where Senna pulls over and is first to get to him.


For all the ones who download the movie from the internet, be careful with the subtitles. I saw the movie at a friends house and tried all possibly subs available on the web, and ALL of them were really bad traslated. All of them.

I’m telling that as someone who knows french and portuguese.


Live in US and have the ‘italian’ PAL dvd version. Will probably obtain the english version when it arrives, I would think somewhere after it’s debut in theaters this summer. Excellent film and well done to the filmmakers for presenting the subject in a very cinematic fashion.


As i live in spain, my only option is to go and see the dubbed version… but i dont want that. So when’s the DVD coming out in english?

A loyal Senna fan for 19 years now.


I really enjoyed Senna, it is the best film I have seen this year and pays homage to the Legend that is the late great Ayrton Senna.

It was well made and I learnt so much about the great man, his battles with Jean Balestre and Alain Prost and the fact the Williams F1 car he drove in 1994 was more difficult car to drive than previous cars driven by Prost and Mansell in previous years.

In his life he gave us great memories and his death brought about improvements in safety in F1. I watched the film here in Letterkenny here in Donegal and enjoyed it but felt very sad and shed a tear for the great man when his death was shown.

Motor Racing lost a legend on May 1st 1994,there will be a driver as good as Ayrton Senna and his legacy will live forever.

God bless you Ayrton my hero and rest in peace.


Saw the film in Camden. Like others, the audience sat in silence throughout the credits and the procession out of the cinema at the end was like a funeral.

It was a very moving film, and didn’t set out to illuminate some previously unknown area of Senna’s life.

The decision to go with the Prost / Senna narrative was smart, although as others have said glossed over the rivalries with Mansell and Piquet.

The way the producers teed up the ending was very clever, too. We all knew what happened, yet we were given little clues such as when Xuxa wished Senna happy new years up to 1993, his interview about future plans etc.

The only moment that diluted the tension for me was the coverage of Donnolly’s crash – as the camera pans out you see a photographer wearing only Y-fronts running around.

The coverage of the funeral, where they show each mourner like Xuxa, Prost – and give a flash back to a happier time was the most moving part for me.


I’ve seen the film 10 times and never noticed the photographer in Y fronts! How did I miss that?


I’m looking forward to seeing this but I will probably wait for the DVD. There is only one small cinema anywhere near me currently showing this.

I wasn’t a big Senna fan at the time as I thought he was incredibly arrogant and dangerous. Plus as a Ferrari fan he was driving for the enemy! I could always appreciate his immense talent and commitment though. It is funny how being a Schumacher fan made me reassess my opinion of Senna as they both had many similar qualities (particularly the win at all costs). I think the main reason people rate Senna so much higher than Schumacher is that Senna had such charisma and force of personality whereas Schumacher was very reserved and hid his emotions.

Both came across arrogant which I think is necessary to be a true champion (it is a fine line between confidence in your own ability and arrogance and I think the best drivers whilst they may not actually be arrogant will seem that way to outsiders because of their supreme confidence).

I think Alonso is perhaps the only current driver who comes close but maybe that is because just as Schumacher was there at the end of the Senna era so learnt his trade that way Alonso was around at the end of the Schumacher era. We seem to be moving into a very different era in F1 now with such personalities not being so common. Maybe it is my age but I see the Senna/Prost/Mansell/Piquet era as a golden age of F1.


I respext your opinion, but… it’s just wrong to compare Senna to Schumi.

Senna was everything BUT arrogant and even if his driving was tough and agressive he never did dirty tricks like Schumi.

Senna was amazing with bad cars and with rain, Schumi is a great driver but always with great cars.

With same cars Senna could beat any driver of that time, and that was the golden era of F1, with the greatest drivers. In wet conditions Senna could lap any car, even better cars than his.

In F1 history there are great drivers, 4 or 5 amazing drivers.. and Senna!


James, is there any word on a limited release in Canada? I heard it was at the film festival last year but nothing since.


I went to see it last night with a few friends. It’s the first film I’ve ever been to where everyone sat in silence for the credits and then go up an left with barely a murmur. I’d forgotten so much of what happened back then and it brought back lots and lots of memories. A must see documentary…



I will be seeing this film on Saturday at the Saugatuk, Michigan Waterfront Festival.

I am absolutly delighted to see it on the big screen in the States. As F1 is not popular stateside.


Took a day off and went to see it – alone – on Monday at Cineworld in Milton Keynes. Did not take the other half to avoid the questions that would surely be asked. It seems like the other 10 blokes in the cinema had the same idea………fantastic film , I had forgotten how often God was mentioned in the Senna era. The only – tiny – dissappointment I had was that the epic Mansell / Senna duel down the Barcelona straight in 1991 was only shown fleetingly – in the credits. Having seen that GP live on TV (and still having the VHS tape as I used to record every race back then) I remember vividly the “shoot out” .In slow motion you can see both helmets turning to face each other no each other no doubt both men screaming , “I’m not braking first……!!” or words to that effect. The accompanying James Hunt soundtrack , shouthing , “look at this , wheel to wheel stuff…….” was riveting at the time and would have been a good inclusion to the film.

I seem to recall reading an atricle later that Mansell was one of the few drivers Senna could not intimidate and the Barcelona overtake cemented that idea. Senna , Mansell , Prost , Piquet……..those like me who were around to watch those battles at the time were truly priveleged.


All I can add is that it is the only film in the last decade that has completely kept my attention. That was the long version, and even that felt short.

No film has made me go through virtually every human emotion either. From hope and inspiration to sheer, almost unwatchable, horror. What other film has done that?

Only Senna “haters” will find fault. Neutrals will just see a damn good film.


Went last night and loved it. Extremely powerful film, i felt very out of sorts for a few hours afterwards. I was only 4 years old when Senna dies but it still bring up some strong emotions. Senna’s face when he saw them trying to resuscitate Roland Ratzenberger was a powerful moment.

Can’t wait for the DVD, I’ll probably go and see it again though.


James, any idea if and when this film is coming to Canadian cinemas?

Nic Maennling

Not the biggest fan of Senna so I will wait until the DVD release. He did not fit in with my view of what an all round F-1 driver should be. He lacked the fairness which I admire in many other drivers.


Obviously, you don’t know anything about Senna.

Watch the movie.


Thank you for your understanding reply.

I’ve seen him come and go and yes, I do know a lot about him. He’s the one who said that god guided around the track !

Obviously, you have only ever watched the movie.

Purposely punting your fellow competitors off the track says it all for me.

I will watch the movie when it finally comes to this part of the world.


You should definitely watch the movie!


I cant work out whats going on with the release date I live in the UK. People have seen it but all cinemas I seem to go to watch it say its not available till 21st??


I Saw it on Sunday. Utterly fantastic film. So moving. i was almost in tears at the end.


I really enjoyed it too although, as has been said, large areas were skipped over. I guess that was inevitable with a 90-minute running time though and hopefully the DVD extras will flesh out other rivalries and important moments.

Perhaps my one disappointment would be that I didn’t feel anything new or earth-shattering was uncovered for fans who’ve read any of the Senna books over the years or the 90s documentaries and interviews. However, I suppose in many ways the film wasn’t setting out to do that and it probably wouldn’t be possible even if it had as so much of the source material has already been used.

It was still a fantastic watch – as said above, the drivers’ briefings were interesting to see and there was a horrible sense of dread watching the in-car footage of Senna’s final laps around Imola again.

As a youngster at the time Senna was always ‘the villian’ to me because of his aggressive tactics, but it’s clear how simplistic that view was.

A truly great driver and, as James says, so beautifully articulate. Although I’m not religious, I’d take Senna talking about an out-of-body experience around Monaco any day over the corporate line of “Thanks to the guys back at the factory” that today’s drivers have to trot out.

Many of the people in the screening I was at also stayed right to the end of the credits which I think shows powerful it was. I’ll hopefully catch it again on the big screen before picking it up on DVD.


I saw it on Friday night. A good documentary but I don’t think it’s really deserving of the big screen. There was nothing in it that was “special” enough to distinguish it from any other documentary you see on TV.


Yes, Neil. Totally agree. You are so right. Even the experts seem to agree.

You very lame troll.


loved the film.

enjoyed it so much. I have a new found respect for Senna. It wasn’t all about him. Legend


Was shocked seeing Rowland Ratzenberger’s death as I hadn’t seen it before.

I thought the film was great. I would have added some footage of his overtakes – say a 5 minute montage and also qualify why Senna and Prost were both fighting for the championship at Suzuka in ’89 – i.e Senna lost 3 races that Prost then went on to win through unreliability but as it was, the film was great.

I’ll probably go and see it again and I also look forward to the DVD.

Conrad M. Sathirweth

Does anyone know when/if the soundtrack is going to be released?


I hope soon, it’s fantastic.


The music was brilliant, I particularly liked the track playing when Senna was flying the helicopter. The track listing was also in the end credits so a bit of Googling/Itunes research would probably find most of them if a Soundtrack isn’t released.


I saw it on Saturday. Wonderful, ended up in tears more than once… I had forgotten how graphic the accident footage was, and somehow,I remembered Ratzenberger’s death more clearly than Senna’s – or maybe it was footage not released in the UK before. Very emotional stuff though. The audience stayed in their seats right to the end of the credits too!

I suppose it did make a meal of the rivalry between Senna and Prost, perhaps at the expense of similar rivalry with other drivers, but (to me at least) it wasn’t a completely negative portrait of Prost, thought I can understand he he feels a bit hard done by.

‘The best decision is my decision’ – it makes Max and Bernie look positively reasonable!


i agree they should have showed some of

senna and mansells bust ups and ding dongs

that was the another brilliant rivalry we didnt get to see any of in this film .

that balestre guy was a joke and a fool .

putting the pole slot off the racing line

just to help prost ,disgraceful .

senna did right to nurf him off the circuit at the first corner .


The BBC wisely cut to their own cameras when the international feed got too graphic which is probably why the images were new to you.

We had Eurosport at the time, which didn’t censor the coverage, although I couldn’t bare to watch the pictures.

Had to drive to Leeds to watch the film last night and it is an amazing and emotional film which does him justice. What struck me for the first time, on the big screen, was the violence of the crash.

I couldn’t believe he died and I still can’t.


I went to see it on friday in, me and my dad were amazed when we looked at the cineworld/odean/VUE websites and found only one was showing the film out of London and that was in Cheshire Oaks, an 1hr from home. DId the film not get enough adverts as when we entered the VUE showing it there wasn’t a single poster for it. It’s an amazing film though, I thought the best line was “If you no longer go for gap, you no longer racing driver” (not the best use of the English language. At the end I was close to tears, for the first time ever in a film -I’ve seen- most people stayed till the very end of the credits and when I left I saw someone who looked like the type of person who you’d avoid on the street crying.


Went to go an see the film last night at the PictureHouse in Cambridge

Been an F1 fan longer than I can remember, found the film to be an fascinating insight into what a great man Senna was and a very moving piece of film. Will be getting the DVD for sure.

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