So far as the music goes, the first summer movie smash was released when there was still snow on the ground in parts of the country.

Pitbull's "Back in Time," which plays over the credits in Sony Pictures' "Men in Black 3," arrived March 26, two months prior to the film hitting theaters as one of the summer's most anticipated titles. It has climbed to No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has sold 412,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"We wanted to come early enough with it so you're not having the record peak two months after the film is out," Sony Pictures president of music Lia Vollack says. "We wanted to come with the song like it was a regular radio record, and the thing working in our favor was that his album was finishing its cycle. It's a good example of synergy, all the Sony elements working together. [Pitbull is signed to RCA and published by Sony/ATV.] We got to do fun stuff with the video because we had a lot of the sets and effects and we were able to integrate him into the film."

Spring, more than summer, has become an important time of year to launch new songs and artists in films or to strike creative uses, such as the employment of eight Van Morrison songs in "The Five-Year Engagement." Prior to the Memorial Day weekend, The soundtrack to "The Hunger Games" hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Epic packed the soundtrack to "Think Like a Man" with its artists, and "The Avengers" heralded the return of Soundgarden.

"Fundamentally, record companies don't like to do soundtracks anymore," Epic Records president of A&R Tricky Stewart says, adding that "Think Like a Man" is probably the only soundtrack the label will release this year. "I don't think it can work if the material is not all original. The material has to be great so that it becomes a compilation CD, and then it's about how well it's put together as a body of work."

The album, which has sold 76,000 copies, was positioned as a springboard for such recent Epic signings as Marcus Canty from "The X Factor," Brandon Hines and Future.

In recent years, the film world has moved the start of summer to the first weekend in May, which this year featured the record-breaking opening of Marvel/Disney's "The Avengers." The musical attraction was Soundgarden's "Live to Rise," which was offered free for a week (April 17-24) and has since sold 34,000 copies, according to SoundScan.

"This is a cool thing to be a part of," Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell says, "a partnership and association that functions in a way that record companies used to-paying for promotion, carving out an avenue of promotion. How do we get songs from this band in front of people's ears now that the industry is over? You have to find different outlets, and I don't think we could have found a better one than this." The soundtrack has sold 50,000.

Even if a film lacks the box-office success of "The Avengers" ($402 million gross, according to Box Office Mojo) and "Think Like a Man" ($83 million), musicians and publishing companies are obviously still benefiting from moves that can be viewed as rolls of the dice.

When music supervisor Jonathan Karp was looking for songs to place in "The Five-Year Engagement," one of his first requests was for Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" from Warner/Chappell Music. "Creatively we didn't have that many spots for source music so we kept asking, 'How do we still have impact and continuity?'" Karp says.

The answer, supplied by Warner/Chappell senior VP of film and TV Wendy Christiansen, was a collection of Morrison tunes, four covers and four of his masters. Warner/Chappell acts the Swell Season and Audra Mae made it onto the soundtrack, as did Brett Dennen and a version of "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" from Dexys Midnight Runners. Soul singer Brenda Lee Eager was filmed singing "Sweet Thing" but the song was cut from the movie; it will be included in the DVD, Karp says.