Movies might be exiting the box office, but killer soundtracks keep them alive in the hearts of viewers

Take heart, entertainment execs: The summer’s big-movie hits may be fading at the box office, but they’re still scoring at record stores. With movie tunes like the Goo Goo Dolls’ ”Iris” (from City of Angels) and Aerosmith’s ”I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (Armageddon) dominating the pop charts, soundtracks continue to be a moneymaking bonanza. ”There’s a lot of marketing involved,” explains Michael Tannen, a buyer at Manhattan’s Tower Records. ”Record companies and studios are putting a lot of thought into working together to promote the music.”

You can say that again. Movie-music marketing will reach pyramidal heights this fall when hit-hungry DreamWorks launches the animated Prince of Egypt, to be accompanied by an unprecedented three separate soundtracks. One album boasts a new Mariah Carey-Whitney Houston duet, a second spotlights country artists like Wynonna and Vince Gill, and a third offers ”inspirational” acts such as Kirk Franklin. Another star-packed ‘track will be Rugrats, with a grown-up lineup including Jakob Dylan, Beck, and No Doubt with Elvis Costello. ”Rugrats is a kids’ show, but it’s incredibly hip,” says the movie’s music supervisor, Karyn Rachtman (who oversaw sounds for Pulp Fiction and Romeo + Juliet). ”We didn’t want to go for the typical Elton John or Celine Dion. We went a little more hip and edgy.” Not nearly as hip and edgy, however, as Velvet Goldmine, a movie inspired by ’70s glam-rockers like David Bowie and Iggy Pop. The album includes Thom Yorke, Pulp, and Shudder to Think. Also watch out for the Slam soundtrack, featuring hip-hop all-stars Q-Tip and Wu-Tang’s Big Baby Jesus. (What, he wasn’t available for the Bible-themed Prince of Egypt?)

The big screen doesn’t have all the fall’s big soundtracks, though: The industry’s tuning in to TV tunes in a big way too. Heavenly hit Touched by an Angel offers up a predictably wholesome lineup, including Amy Grant and Deana Carter, while a Sabrina, the Teenage Witch compilation features actress Melissa Joan Hart working her magic on Blondie’s ”One Way or Another,” and unreleased tracks from the Spice Girls and Sugar Ray (remaking Steve Miller’s bewitching hit ”Abracadabra”). Also look for the long-awaited Chef Aid: The South Park Album. Expect contributions from Tim McGraw, Primus, Devo, and All Saints —— with the first single a ”Freddie’s Dead” remake called ”Kenny’s Dead,” by Master P, the perfect choice for a show that makes most people say ”Ugh.”