Movie PictureThe Hollywood Reporter reports that while the storm troopers of doubt circled the "beleaguered boxoffice" of late, the Force was beginning to flex its power as 20th Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith was shattering records out of the gate with an estimated $16.5 million-to-$17 million in receipts from the midnight shows alone, the distributor said Thursday.

"We'll be counting the grosses for a while. It's an absolutely remarkable number. It seems like the industry got kickstarted last night at midnight," said Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for Fox. Snyder noted that final numbers will not be available for some time because midnight shows are not usually broken out of a single day's gross at the boxoffice.

Revenge of the Sith began playing midnight shows in 2,900 theaters in North America at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Snyder could not give a firm screen count, but noted that it could be significantly higher because of interlocking, the practice of taking one print and showing it on multiple screens within a theater, and the lack of any other films playing midnight shows on Thursday.