Movie Marketing Madness: Little Men

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When you hit a certain age as a kid you want to start forming your own identity, usually separate from that of your parents. So some will rebel by doing things they know their parents disapprove of or maybe they’ll denounce the religion they’ve been raised in. Or maybe they’ll just spend their days and nights complaining about how their parents are so terrible and they won’t let them do anything and why can’t they just understand. It’s hard being a kid and emerging from the shadow of a parent is a difficult and painful task, usually involving lots of tears from everyone throughout the process.

In the new movie Little Men, that kind of dynamic is exactly what plays out. Theo Taplitz plays Jake, the son of a struggling writer (Greg Kinnear) and his wife (Jennifer Ehle) who have moved back into the apartment building once managed by his father. They’re welcomed back by the tenants and the rest of the neighborhood right up to the moment his financial issues lead them to decide to raise the rent. That not only causes issues with the other tenants but struggles for Jake, who has become good friends with Tony (Michael Barbieri), the son of some of those tenants. As family is pit against family, these two boys are caught in the middle when all they want to do is be themselves ad be friends.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie presents is more or less for what it is: A relatively quiet drama about the relationships between a group of people. So the cast is arrayed on the bottom of the poster all looking at the camera, no special poses or anything else. The cast list appears above the title treatment while below it we get a four-star review and pull quote, its Sundance credentials and the tagline “Be on each other’s side,” which does what it can to explain the story.

The Trailers

The trailer sets up the premise as we see Brian and his family are moving back to the old neighborhood after the death of his father. His son quickly strikes up a friendship with another kid in his building. We see that Brian is a struggling actor as well and that his problems getting a gig mean he has to raise the rent on the building he now manages, which causes a strain between the families, particularly the two boys who have just found in each other a new friend.

It’s a nicely moving trailer that sets up the story pretty well. Kinnear gets some of the bigger moments performance-wise but it’s clear that the movie follows the story of the two boys and the emotional havoc being wreaked on them by adults whose behavior isn’t always clear or understandable. It’s clear just from this trailer why the movie got such good festival buzz.

Online and Social

The primary thing to do on the movie’s official website is to buy tickets, with a number of prompts to do so on the front page.

Aside from that the first section on the site is “Trailer,” which has both the trailer and a featurette with the cast and crew. “Story” has a good synopsis of the story that goes way more in-depth than most movie sites. That’s really it in terms of site content with the exception of the “Press Kit” you can view and download if you so choose.

The only dedicated off-domain presence for the movie was on Facebook, where the studio shared photos and videos like the trailer and clips along with links to press stories and more. There weren’t standalone profiles on other networks, with the movie having to share space on Magnolia’s Twitter and Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing in this category I’ve seen, though it’s safe to assume some online ads have been run in markets where it’s hitting in limited release to drive ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

A first-look still from the movie debuted in THR ahead of the movie’s screening at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie wasn’t one of the festival’s breakouts and I don’t think I saw much notable critical reaction to it. Which is why it was a while before it was picked up for distribution.

little men pic 1

Closer to release, director Ira Sachs made some publicity rounds, talking about the inspirations for the story, his relationship with the characters and more. That seemed to be about it for the publicity push, though.


There’s a good movie on display here, one that features some solid performances and a story about not just childhood friendship but also gentrification and the idea of retaining the elements of the “old neighborhood.” All that is shown in the trailers and other materials throughout the campaign. Kinnear has always been a solid actor, occasionally giving outright great performances but always at least being really good and it looks like he turns that on to anchor the story.

The campaign of course isn’t robust, as is common for a small movie like this. But what there is sells the movie well and in a way that should appeal to fans of stories like this. There’s a strong reliance, as there often is, on word of mouth coming out of festivals and that was positive enough that it should provide an incentive for those following such buzz to seek out the movie if they can.

By Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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