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These are the 20 highest-grossing movies of the pandemic era

With many blockbusters shelved for a later date, mid-budget movies took over the marquees

Posters for upcoming movies are displayed in an empty corridor at the currently closed AMC Burbank Town Center 8 movie theaters complex on April 29, 2020, in Burbank, Calif. AMC Entertainment lost billions during the pandemic.
Movie posters are displayed in an empty corridor at the AMC Burbank Town Center 8 movie theater on April 29, 2020, in Burbank, Calif.
Chris Pizzello, Invision via Associated Press

Like many other industries across the country, the pandemic wreaked havoc on U.S. box offices in 2020. For nearly a full year, theaters in major markets like New York City and Los Angeles were shuttered. Today, as more and more Americans are becoming immunized, the movie theater business is inching back toward its profitable past.

The bulk of tentpole films on the 2020 schedule, like “No Time to Die” and “Black Widow,” were set aside at the start of the pandemic to be released once life returned to its normal, pre-pandemic ways.

As a result of that calendar shift, the list of the 20 highest-grossing movies from March 2020 through March 2021 (featured below) provides an interesting record for an unforgettable year.

The top six movies on the list are the few Hollywood tentpole movies that elected to weather the storm. Those movies include the Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenet,” two superhero movies — “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The New Mutants” — and three animated family features, “The Croods: A New Age,” “Tom & Jerry,” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

From the seven spot on things take a turn. With so many blockbusters delayed, movie theaters that remained open turned to midbudget, adult-oriented dramas and thrillers to fill their seats. For that reason, movies like Russell Crowe’s “Unhinged,” Kevin Costner’s “Let Him Go” and Liam Neeson’s “The Marksman” and “Honest Thief” slid into the top 20. None of the movies in the list eclipsed the $60 million threshold, where in a typical year every movie on the list would reach that mark.

According to Variety, the box office hit a 40-year low in 2020, tallying only $2.2 billion at the year’s end (compared to $11.39 billion in 2019). CNBC adds that $1.8 billion of that year end sum came between Jan. 1 and March 19.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian told the outlet that, although the pandemic’s impact on the film industry was drastic, theaters are poised for a comeback.

“Given the historic resilience of the movie theater, I would not bet against the chance for this important side of the business to return to revenue-generating greatness,” he said. “But, like a great Hollywood movie, this is a cliffhanger that has the entire industry on the edge of its seat.”

Here are the 20 highest-grossing movies from March 2020 through March 2021, according to Entertainment Weekly:

Note: Release date information came from IMDb.

  1. “Tenet” — $58.2 million (released Sept. 3, 2020).
  2. “The Croods: A New Age” — $56 million (released Aug. 12, 2020).
  3. “Wonder Woman 1984” — $45.9 million (released Dec. 25, 2020).
  4. “Tom & Jerry” — $37.3 million (released Feb. 26, 2021).
  5. “Raya and the Last Dragon” — $28.7 million (released March 5, 2021).
  6. “The New Mutants” — $23.9 million (released Nov. 26, 2020).
  7. “The War With Grandpa” — $21 million (released Oct. 9, 2020).
  8. “Unhinged” — $19.8 million (released Aug. 21, 2020).
  9. “Monster Hunter” — $15 million (released Dec. 3, 2020).
  10. “The Little Things” — $14.9 million (released Jan. 29, 2021).
  11. “The Marksman” — $14.8 million (released Jan. 15, 2021).
  12. “Honest Thief” — $13.7 million (released Oct. 16, 2020).
  13. “News of the World” — $12.6 million (released Dec. 25, 2020).
  14. “Chaos Walking” — $11.5 million (released March 5, 2021).
  15. “Come Play” — $10.5 million (released Oct. 30, 2020).
  16. “Let Him Go” — $9.4 million (released Nov. 6, 2020).
  17. “Freaky” — $9 million (released Nov. 13, 2020).
  18. “Nobody” — $6.8 million (released March 26, 2021).
  19. “Fatale” — $6.3 million (released Dec. 18, 2020).
  20. “Promising Young Woman” — $6 million (released Jan. 25, 2020).