This weekend’s box office is clearly going to be all about The Dark Knight Rises, and perhaps that accounts for the minimal number of rollouts in the specialty space. But a pair of new titles are among the limited releases that are braving the Batman trilogy finale onslaught. Sundance debut The Queen Of Versailles has picked up a good amount of attention from morning TV and other shows. The documentary’s subjects — “1-percenters” who live a life of reckless luxury but then face a day of reckoning — appear to be the film’s best marketers, perhaps inadvertently. Kino Lorber Films is releasing The Well-Digger’s Daughter, a French-language film the distributor said will tap into an audience that could not care less about the black-caped superhero nor his avenging summer tentpole friends.

The Queen Of Versailles
Director Lauren Greenfield
Subjects: Jackie Siegel, David Siegel
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Occupy Wall Street may have had some unintended influence elevating the profile of Lauren Greenfield’s doc The Queen Of Versailles at the Sundance Film Festival last January. Talk of the “1%” had entered the lexicon and this film about a once flamboyantly high-flying billionaire couple became the basis of the documentary and a potential window for the 99% to peer into. They were in the midst of building America’s largest private residence when the financial crisis interrupted developer David Siegel’s progress — and provided Greenfield much footage for fodder.

“We think it’s an enormously entertaining movie, but also highly relevant and also moving,” Magnolia exec Matt Cowal said. “It’s a perfect combination for a documentary. We saw it at Sundance and fell in love with it.” Magnolia apparently won a bidding match for the film, which Siegel’s wife Jackie Siegel saw at the film’s first screening at Sundance, but kept quiet during the post-screening Q&A due to pending litigation filed by by her husband. The Queen of Versailles ”was featured on Good Morning America and the Today show as well as Nightline,” said Cowal, emphasizing the doc’s far-flung interest stemming from America’s fascination with the super-rich and a story that captures an enormous rise followed by a precipitous fall. “The New York Times and EW have given it great coverage and there’s a tremendous amount of interest. The Siegels are particularly characters and the fact that David Siegel is unhappy about the film and has a lawsuit has also expanded interest in the film.” The lawsuit against Sundance, filmmaker Greenfield and her husband is still pending.

Nevertheless, the theatrical rollout is on track. Magnolia is planning a traditional platform release in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, followed by other markets, with VOD and DVD to follow.

The Well-Digger’s Daughter (La file du puisatier)
Director: Daniel Auteuil
Writers: Daniel Auteuil (screenplay), Marcel Pagnol (novel)
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Nicolas Duvauchelle
Distributor: Kino Lorber Films

Kino Lorber chief Richard Lorber caught wind of The Well-Digger’s Daughter after speaking with French sales outfit Pathé ahead of the American Film Market last year. “This is a ‘meat and potatoes’ French film that won’t get a lot of awards, but it’s appealing to older audiences,” Gary Palmucci, Kino Lorber’s vice president, theatrical said.

Asked about opening the same weekend as The Dark Knight Rises, a box office monster that has swallowed up 91% of online ticket sales as of Thursday morning alone, Palmucci sounded sanguine. “I think it’s a good thing. We knew this was the day for The Dark Knight Rises. Our audience isn’t concerned about that film and it’s good counter-programming.”

Kino Lorber is working with French cultural institute Alliance Francaise to spread the word about The Well-Digger’s Daughter and has used targeted web advertising. “We have a lot of bookings around the country. The film will open in Seattle and New York this weekend, followed by L.A. on July 27th,” Palmucci said. “There are a lot of cities Landmark Theaters booked through summer. It’s an extremely competitive market right now for our films, so we’re hoping we can hold these screens.”

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