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The Little Women 2019 cast sisters on the beach

The 2019 Little Women movie was not a sure bet with fans, critics, or ticket-buyers. So take a bow, Greta Gerwig and company, that the movie is a true holiday box office winner -- opening well ahead of expectations.

Little Women opened Christmas Day and picked up $29 million across its five-day opening. Those aren't Star Wars numbers, and Rise of Skywalker is still #1 at the box office in its second weekend, but that $29 million domestic opening is above the expectations.

The early box office projections for Little Women were around $15M-$25M. According to THR, the movie was fueled by a demo of older women viewers, giving an opening beyond what Sony and Regency were expecting. (For some reason, Sony was only expecting $16-17 million for the first five days, per Box Office Mojo.)

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Little Women is the seventh adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel. It could've easily failed for that alone. There was already a relatively recent star-studded movie in 1994. So why is this "Little" movie finding an audience amid the giant tentpoles of December 2019?

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Great Reviews And Word Of Mouth

Little Women has a Metascore of 91 from Metacritic, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95%, an RT audience score of 92%, and an IMDb user score of 8.3/10. Those are all extremely strong numbers. Point being, people love the movie. Critics, fans, whoever sees it. Then they spread the word.

Huge Star Appeal

Sure, past Little Women adaptations also had star appeal, but the 2019 remake happened to capture rising and established stars at just the right time. Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl freakin' Streep, even Bob Odenkirk and Chris Cooper. Plus, rising stars Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with My Family, Black Widow soon) and Eliza Scanlen (Sharp Objects) got more major showcases.

Those Changes To The Novel Were Appreciated

It's always risky when you adapt a novel and change things. However, Greta Gerwig's many changes, including to the ending, seem to have gone done just fine with most viewers, whether they came into the theater as superfans of the Little Women novel or not.

The Marketing Worked

So often when a movie fails, the knee-jerk response is to blame marketing. So when a movie does better than anyone expected, even in a small way, it's only fair to point out that marketing did its job. Here's what RelishMix reported, via Deadline:

Positive conversation indicates that the target audience has been made aware and are making plans to see Little Women. The campaign has done a fine job of reaching them on a lot of different points, all of which are sellable ... which support that this dramatic interpretation of the beloved book has a lot working in its favor.

Not Much Direct Competition

Nobody else was aiming for Little Women's audience this holiday week. Star Wars is still the big movie for everyone, with Jumanji: The Next Level right behind it. Like the Downton Abbey movie, another "surprise" win, Little Women found a demographic niche on the box office chart. There it is at #3, ahead of Frozen II and animated newcomer Spies in Disguise. Spies in Disguise could've easily scooped up the family audience but instead that got split around several movies and Little Women was able to zero in on a specific audience. Kind of like Uncut Gems in that indie film respect, although reactions to Adam Sandler's movie have been more polarizing.

Have you seen Little Women yet? If so, what did you think -- compared to the book, compared to past adaptations, or just on its own with no previous references?