The Highest-Grossing Summer Movies of All Time
Behold the hottest summer blockbusters in history.
Even if you're one of the millions of people with a Netflix subscription, there's nothing quite like seeing the special effects of an action-packed flick on the big screen every now and then. And in the summertime, when a cold theater and a gigantic Pepsi beckons, it's even harder to say no to those increasing entrance fees. In honor of the beloved summer movie season—from May through August—we've rounded up a list of the biggest U.S. summer blockbusters of all time, using data from Box Office Mojo. So grab your bag of popcorn and get ready to devour these hit flicks.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Release date: August 6, 1999
Total U.S. box office gross: $293.5 million
Upon The Sixth Sense's release in 1999, fans and critics all across the world were in awe of the dynamic performances delivered by Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and child prodigy Haley Joel Osment. The psychological thriller follows a boy (Osment) who can see and talk to the dead, an ability that leads to a number of chill-inducing moments (particularly the unexpected ending). The Sixth Sense was the rare massive movie hit that was also beloved by Hollywood's elite. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Osment, and Best Supporting Actress for Collette.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
Release date: June 30, 2010
Total U.S. box office gross: $300.5 million
In the third installment of the Twilight series, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner all reprise their roles of vampire, human, and werewolf, respectively. At the time of its release in 2010, the movie was the biggest midnight opening in the United States and Canada in box office history, grossing an estimated $30 million. (In 2011, however, it was surpassed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2.)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Release date: July 15, 2009
Total U.S. box office gross: $302 million
Things became a bit more grim for the beloved characters in the Harry Potter series in the action-packed sixth installment. From a mysterious book of potions to a hunt for hidden Horcruxes, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince remains one of the most popular summer blockbusters to date—and yet, it's still only the fifth highest-grossing movie within the franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Release date: July 9, 2003
Total U.S. box office gross: $305.4 million
In the first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Kiera Knightley find their place among the conniving pirates of the 18th century. Prior to the film's release, critics and moviegoers alike had low expectations for the film, but it was a huge success—bringing in well over $300 million.
Independence Day (1996)
Release date: July 3, 1996
Total U.S. box office gross: $306.2 million
Fans of apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers can thank Independence Day's success for the plethora of copycat films that now dominate the mainstream movie market. When it was released in 1996, the film—which stars Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum—accomplished a feat that no other science fiction film had been able to in quite some time: It was the highest-grossing film of the year.
Star Wars: Episode VI–Return of the Jedi (1983)
Release date: May 25, 1983
Total U.S. box office gross: $309.3 million
This third installment in the Star Wars series takes place just one year after the events that transpired in The Empire Strikes Back. Though it wasn't the most popular movie of the franchise, the film did manage to rake in an impressive $309.3 at the box office, proving just how dedicated Star Wars fans are.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
Release date: May 25, 2007
Total U.S. box office gross: $309.4 million
In the summer of 2007, fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise were handed yet another slice of swashbuckler heaven with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Once again, Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Depp) is up to no good, and the film follows along as Will Turner (portrayed by Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (portrayed by Knightley), and the crew of the Black Pearl rescue him from his latest escapades. At the time of its release, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End made history for being the most expensive movie ever made, costing an impressive $300 million from start to finish.
Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002)
Release date: May 16, 2002
Total U.S. box office gross: $310.7 million
Though some critics consider this 2002 installment to be the worst in the Star Wars series, Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones managed to do exceptionally well at the box office domestically. The film garnered millions of dollars from faithful moviegoers who were impressed by the visual effects and action sequences, though decidedly less so with the awkward dialogue and romantic relationship between Anakin Skywalker (portrayed by Hayden Christensen) and Senator Padmé Amidala (portrayed by Natalie Portman). While the film was a financial success, Attack of the Clones is currently the only Star Wars movie to ever have been outgrossed in its year of release; in 2002, it placed third domestically and fourth internationally in terms of box office numbers.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Release date: May 7, 2010
Total U.S. box office gross: $312.4 million
After the first Iron Man film was well-received by Marvel fans, the creators of this superhero series set out to recreate the magic Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., provided with Iron Man 2. With actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Scarlett Johansson fighting alongside the self-made superhero, Iron Man dominated the box office once again, raking in just over $312 million domestically.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Release date: May 22, 2008
Total U.S. box office gross: $317.1 million
Even though Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released 19 years after the previous installment in the series, it still managed to make more than $317 million at the box office, proving that the Indiana Jones franchise would always have a loyal fanbase. In this fourth installment, Harrison Ford and Karen Allen reprised their roles as adventurous partners-in-crime—this time with their son, Mutt, in tow, played by Shia LaBeouf.
Iron Man (2008)
Release date: May 2, 2008
Total U.S. box office gross: $318.4 million
This first installment of the Iron Man series saw Downey Jr. step into the role of Tony Stark, a master engineer who crafts a powerful exoskeleton that transforms him into a self-made superhero. Upon its release in 2008, Iron Man was praised for its screenplay, direction, visual effects, and action sequences, not to mention Downey Jr.'s stellar performance. Iron Man even received two nominations at the 81st Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Release date: July 3, 2007
Total U.S. box office gross: $319.2 million
In July of 2007, quite a few moviegoers were buying tickets to see Michael Bay bring Transformers to life. More than a decade after the release of the first Transformers movie—starring LaBeouf and Megan Fox—the franchise has now garnered a total of $4.3 billion.
Shrek the Third (2007)
Release date: May 18, 2007
Total U.S. box office gross: $322.7 million
Released six years to the day after the first Shrek movie, Shrek the Third follows the antics of the same cast of fairytale characters (played by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Julie Andrews, and John Cleese) as Shrek and Fiona are poised to take over the throne. Though it didn't receive as much praise as the previous installments did, Shrek the Third still managed to snag the attention of loyal fans, some of whom likely saw the movie to catch a glimpse of a new Shrek character voiced by Justin Timberlake.
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Release date: May 18, 2018
Total U.S. box office gross: $324.6 million
In this sequel to 2016's Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds reprised his role as wisecracking superhero mercenary Wade Wilson, who, after losing his girlfriend to an attack by an outsider, plots revenge on this foe with the help of some of the X-Men. Upon its release in May of 2018, Deadpool 2 became the highest-grossing R-rated film and highest-grossing X-Men movie of all time.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Release date: August 5, 2016
Total U.S. box office gross: $325.1 million
This incredibly popular superhero film, based on the D.C. Comics supervillain team of the same name, was widely regarded for its special effects upon its release in 2016. However, despite having an ensemble cast that included Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, and Jared Leto, critics generally disliked the portrayal of the characters in the film—save for Robbie's Harley Quinn. Those who enjoyed Suicide Squad can look forward to the film's Harley Quinn-heavy sequel, set to be released in 2021.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Release date: July 6, 1994
Total U.S. box office gross: $330.3 million
When it was released in 1994, Forrest Gump captivated millions of moviegoers, thanks to stellar performances by Tom Hanks (as Forrest Gump), Robin Wright (as Jenny), Gary Sinise (as Lieutenant Dan Taylor), and Sally Field (as Forrest's mother). Forrest Gump went on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Actor for Hanks.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Release date: August 1, 2014
Total U.S. box office gross: $333.2 million
In the first installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, moviegoers were introduced to the rag-tag group of aliens, animals, and humans (portrayed by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper) charged with guarding the universe. The hit Marvel film was nominated for two Academy Awards—Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup and Hairstyling—and fans were subsequently treated to a second installment in 2017 with a third on the way.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Release date: July 7, 2017
Total U.S. box office gross: $334.2 million
Despite the many hit-or-miss Spider-Man renditions that came before it, 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming earned praise due to the acting chops of its star, Tom Holland. In fact, many critics even went so far as to cite this installment as their favorite, explaining that the film—which also starred Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, and Downey Jr. as Iron Man—was much lighter than previous iterations and gave moviegoers a reason to smile.
Release date: July 10, 2015
Total U.S. box office gross: $336 million
Released in the summer of 2015, Minions was a spin-off and prequel to the popular Despicable Me films of 2010 and 2013. The film follows minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob in the 1960s as they wreak havoc alongside some of the world's most evil supervillains, voiced by Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm. Though critics didn't find this children's film all too amusing, moviegoers still showed their support for their favorite yellow creatures and helped it bring in some $336 million in domestic box office sales. Worldwide, the movie even managed to make more than $1 billion, making it the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film of all time.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Release date: May 4, 2007
Total U.S. box office gross: $336.5 million
Serving as the third and final installment in the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man series, Spider-Man 3 took on a darker tone as Peter Parker became more inclined to do evil. Still, with more than $336 million at the U.S. box office—this stage of the franchise definitely went out with a bang.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Release date: June 29, 2011
Total U.S. box office gross: $352.4 million
Even though Megan Fox did not reprise her role in the third installment of the Transformers series, Transformers: Dark of the Moon was still a box office success. Set three years after Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the third movie followed LaBeouf's Sam as he aids in the battle of the Autobots and Decepticons with his new love interest (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). While the movie earned mixed reviews, the third Transformers still managed to become the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time at the time of its release in 2011.
Inside Out (2015)
Release date: June 19, 2015
Total U.S. box office gross: $356.5 million
With a superstar cast featuring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling, and a compelling and thought-provoking plot, Inside Out is considered one of the best animated films ever. The movie earned more than $356 million at the box office and received a plethora of awards, including a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award, Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Release date: July 3, 2013
Total U.S. box office gross: $368.1 million
So many fans flocked to see Despicable Me 2 that it ended up becoming the most profitable film in the history of Universal Pictures, which has been around for more than 100 years!
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Release date: July 8, 2016
Total U.S. box office gross: $368.4 million
Made by the same team who created the Despicable Me franchise, The Secret Life of Pets provided a hilarious look into what happens when we leave our dogs, cats, birds, etc. at home. The film offered a heartfelt and heroic interpretation of our fierce, fun, and fragile furry friends. If you've already seen the first installment, the second hits theaters this summer and it's sure to tug on your "hooman" heartstrings.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Release date: June 30, 2004
Total U.S. box office gross: $373.6 million
According to a Rolling Stone poll, Spider-Man 2 is one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. In the second installment of Maguire's trilogy, Parker must balance his personal life with the duties of being your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. And at the Academy Awards, the film even brought home the award for Best Visual Effects.
Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Release date: May 19, 2005
Total U.S. box office gross: $380.3 million
Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith, the third installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, shattered box office records upon its release in 2005. In fact, it still holds the record for highest opening day gross on a Thursday with $50 million.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Release date: May 30, 2003
Total U.S. box office gross: $380.8 million
In this animated film written and directed by Andrew Stanton, Marlin (Albert Brooks), an overprotective clownfish dad, enlists the help of his new friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) to find his missing son, Nemo (Alexander Gould)—and naturally, the unlikely pair encounters many obstacles during their journey. Dory, the forgetful fish, proved to be so popular that a sequel, Finding Dory, was released in 2016. Before Pixar's own Toy Story 3 subsequently claimed the title, Finding Nemo was the highest-grossing G-rated film in history.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
Release date: July 15, 2011
Total U.S. box office gross: $381.2 million
In this eighth and final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter continues his quest to hunt down all of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes in an effort to do away with the Dark Lord. The film, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, and Maggie Smith, was the highest-grossing movie of the Harry Potter series. Unlike other series conclusions of its genre, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 proved to be more than just a satisfactory ending to an award-winning series; it was also one of the best films of the decade, period.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Release date: May 5, 2017
Total U.S. box office gross: $389.8 million
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follows the Guardians as they travel through the cosmos to help Peter Quill (Pratt) learn more about his mysterious parentage. Alongside the original cast, famed actor Sylvester Stallone brings life to the role of Stakar Ogord, a high-ranking Ravager with a big chip on his shoulder. Though some film critics deemed it inferior to the original, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still managed to be a hit at the box office, grossing more than $863 million worldwide.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Release date: June 24, 2009
Total U.S. box office gross: $402.1 million
Taking place two years after the ending of the first film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen revolves around main character Sam as he works on balancing his regular college life with the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. In addition to being the highest-grossing U.S. film in 2009, Revenge of the Fallen became the highest-grossing film to earn Worst Picture from the Golden Raspberry Awards (better known as the Razzies).
Jurassic Park (1993)
Release date: June 11, 1993
Total U.S. box office gross: $402.8 million
Until the release of Titanic in 1997, Jurassic Park was the highest-grossing film of all time. Due to the overwhelming success of the first movie, four more commercially successful sequels were subsequently created—and the fifth is slated to debut in 2021.
Release date: May 3, 2002
Total U.S. box office gross: $403.7 million
Remember the time when superhero movies weren't a typical part of the summer movie tradition? As the Washington Post reports, it wasn't until 2002 that Spider-Man defined what superhero movies should feel like in the 21st century: sleek, cool, and funny, with numerous engaging action sequences. Critics praised Spider-Man for its visual effects, direction, performances, and the romantic moments between Kirsten Dunst and Maguire. Who could forget that upside down kiss?
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Release date: May 6, 2016
Total U.S. box office gross: $408.1 million
Captain America: Civil War is the third Captain America film (after 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger and 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier). In this installment, the Avengers team is still split into two opposing factions—one led by Captain America (Chris Evans), and the other led by Iron Man (Downey Jr.). Ultimately, pitting the world's favorite superheroes against one another made for such an engaging cinematic experience that Captain America: Civil War was the highest-grossing film of 2016.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Release date: May 3, 2013
Total U.S. box office gross: $409 million
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark struggles to deal with the ramifications of the events laid out in the previous Avengers film, suffering from panic attacks as a result of an alien invasion while trying to prepare for combat with the Mandarin. Fans flocked to the theaters to see this film during its opening weekend, resulting in it joining the top 10 biggest opening weekends at the box office of all time.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Release date: June 2, 2017
Total U.S. box office gross: $412.6 million
Following Gal Gadot's debut as Wonder Woman in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gave this female superhero a stage of her own—and it ultimately proved to be a lucrative one. After it was released in 2017, Wonder Woman set numerous box office records, proving just how much audiences wanted to see female superheroes in the spotlight. In fact, Wonder Woman performed so well that there's a sequel slated to come out in 2020.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Release date: June 18, 2010
Total U.S. box office gross: $415 million
Released more than a decade after the second installment in the Toy Story series, Toy Story 3 brought life to Buzz, Woody, and friends yet again. This 2010 flick focuses on an escape from a daycare center and it became the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time. It even managed to snag two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Release date: June 22, 2018
Total U.S. box office gross: $417.7 million
In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles from Jurassic World as they race to save dinosaurs from being sold on the black market. The movie became the third Jurassic Park film to gross more than $1 billion.
The Lion King (1994)
Release date: June 15, 1994
Total U.S. box office gross: $422.8 million
Influenced in part by William Shakespeare's Hamlet, The Lion King is an animated musical film that follows a young lion cub as he finds the courage to claim the kingdom that's rightfully his. This incredibly influential movie has an ensemble voice cast featuring Jonathon Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane, and Whoopi Goldberg.
The summer blockbuster proved to be a heartwarming favorite, sending families to the movie theater in droves—and eventually becoming the highest-grossing release of 1994 and the second highest-grossing film ever at the time. Fans of the original can now look forward to the 2019 version, which uses photorealistic computer-generated animation and stars Glover as Simba, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, Billy Eichner as Timon, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, and Jones reprising his role as Mufasa.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Release date: July 7, 2006
Total U.S. box office gross: $423.3 million
What made Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest so popular among moviegoers was not the action sequences, but the development of peripheral characters like Davy Jones and James Norrington, Elizabeth Swann's ousted former lover. As a result, Dead Man's Chest ranks among the top 30 highest-grossing films of all time.
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Release date: June 11, 1982
Total U.S. box office gross: $435.1 million
For many, ET is among the best feel-good movies out there—and for good reason. It was beloved so much by critics and audiences alike, in fact, that for 11 years, it held the record of being the highest-grossing film of all time. (Director Steven Spielberg broke his own record with Jurassic Park.) In 1994, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial was also selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry.
Shrek 2 (2004)
Release date: May 19, 2004
Total U.S. box office gross: $441.2 million
In Shrek 2, Shrek and Fiona have finally settled down together, and now they must make the next big step in their relationship: meeting the parents. Shrek 2 held the honor of being the highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide until Toy Story 3 surpassed it in 2010.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Release date: July 20, 2012
Total U.S. box office gross: $448.1 million
The Dark Knight Rises finally brought Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy to a triumphant end. Alongside returning Dark Knight actors, Anne Hathaway (playing Catwoman), Tom Hardy (playing villain Bane), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (playing John Blake) joined the cast. In addition to being Nolan's highest-grossing film, The Dark Knight Rises is one of the top 30 highest-grossing films of all time.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Release date: May 1, 2015
Total U.S. box office gross: $459 million
Serving as the sequel to 2012's The Avengers, Age of Ultron features the same ensemble cast of superheroes fighting against Ultron (James Spader), an artificial intelligence obsessed with causing human extinction. The movie received generally positive reviews from film critics and audiences were completely smitten with it, helping it become the fifth highest-grossing film ever at the time of its release.
Star Wars (1977)
Release date: May 25, 1977
Total U.S. box office gross: $461 million
In May of 1977, the world caught its first glimpse of the Star Wars franchise. Since then, this colorful and futuristic story has managed to captivate millions around the world, making it one of the most successful franchises in the history of cinema. Until the premiere of ET: The Extraterrestrial in 1982, Star Wars was the highest-grossing film of all time. The sci-fi film even earned seven Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and a Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing award that went to sound designer Ben Burtt.
Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace (1999)
Release date: May 19, 1999
Total U.S. box office gross: $474.5 million
For the first time since 1983, the Star Wars franchise found its way back to the silver screen with The Phantom Menace in 1999. Set 32 years before the original film, this prequel followed the journey of Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and young slave Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) as they protected Queen Amidala (Portman) and sought a peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute.
Finding Dory (2016)
Release date: June 17, 2016
Total U.S. box office gross: $486.3 million
Finding Dory revolves around the amnesiac titular fish who goes on a journey alongside Nemo, Marlin, and their turtle friend Crush, to be reunited with her parents. Upon its release in 2016, Finding Dory set a few box office records, including the biggest opening for an animated film in North America and the highest-grossing animated film in North America.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Release date: July 18, 2008
Total U.S. box office gross: $535.2 million
More than any other acting performance of 2008, Heath Ledger's role as the Joker in The Dark Knight left an everlasting impression on moviegoers all across the world, particularly due to his untimely death just months before the release of the film. It made such an impact that The Dark Knight brought in more than $1 billion in revenue worldwide during the year of its release alone.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Release date: June 15, 2018
Total U.S. box office gross: $608.6 million
Incredibles 2 follows the Parr superhero family as they attempt to restore the public's faith in superheroes and simultaneously keep peace within the family unit. Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sarah Vowell lent their voices to the franchise, which will hopefully return to the silver screen for a third installment sometime soon.
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
Release date: May 4, 2012
Total U.S. box office gross: $623.4 million
Based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name, Avengers witnessed the birth of the supergroup made up of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Avengers received praise for its direction, screenplay, acting, and musical score and managed to garner numerous awards and nominations throughout the 2013 award season.
Jurassic World (2015)
Release date: June 12, 2015
Total U.S. box office gross: $652.3 million
Jurassic World is the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park film series and the first film in the planned Jurassic World trilogy. Though this installment is set 22 years after the third Jurassic Park film, it centers around the same fictional Central American island of Isla Nublar, which is now overrun by dangerous cloned dinosaurs. Since its release, Jurassic World has become the highest-grossing summer blockbuster of all time, raking in more than $1 billion in profits worldwide. And for more on movies that didn't fare as well, These Are the Movies on Rotten Tomatoes with the Lowest Ratings.
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