Xmas movies arrive with a flurry of hype.

Among the December traditions in America, one of the most eagerly anticipated is the flurry of motion picture releases timed to coincide with the holidays and last-minute Oscar consideration. With each film vying for attention, potential moviegoers are overwhelmed with advertisements.

Among the December traditions in America, one of the most eagerly anticipated is the flurry of motion picture releases timed to coincide with the holidays and last-minute Oscar consideration. With each film vying for attention, potential moviegoers are overwhelmed with advertisements.

Does all this pre-release hype contribute to the film's ultimate success?

Well, it certainly doesn't hurt.

Here's a look at which late-December releases have their publicity machines in high gear, generating widespread attention in the US and Canada.

The clear winner appears to be Prince of Egypt, an animated Moses epic produced by DreamWorks SKG. In a series of online searches, this movie surfaced in over 50% more articles than the second leading film in our survey.

Prince benefited from its qualification for two important December categories: family-appropriate films and Oscar contenders. The decision to release three separate soundtracks from the movie, although considered overkill by many in the media, also yielded significant coverage. Advanced technologies in animation and an impressive cast of celebrity voices added to the overall attention this movie has been receiving.

But even though the movie was described in the Kansas City Star as 'gorgeous' and 'eye-popping,' many others questioned whether this biblical story would attract young, or for that matter old, viewers.

Romantic comedy You've Got Mail has benefited from the pairing of its stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. As it is their third picture together, some in the media are now calling the duo the Tracy and Hepburn of the '90s.

The title was a marketing coup. Not only do millions hear the name of the film each day when signing on to America Online, but this connection has also produced numerous mentions of the film in articles about the company.

Arriving virtually out of nowhere to attract the third highest volume of media coverage was Gods and Monsters. This film, about the director of Frankenstein, received widespread coverage after it won the Best Picture award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Two films generating the most pre-release Oscar buzz were Shakespeare in Love and The Thin Red Line. Based on only a few screenings and word of mouth, more than half of the articles mentioning each of these films included a mention of the word 'Oscar.'

Finally, in the star-driven category were Robin Williams' Patch Adams and Stepmom with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Nearly 90% of the Patch articles included a mention of Williams.

If the pre-release coverage devoted to these movies is any indication, look for Prince of Egypt to part the early competition and lead moviegoers to the box office.

- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.

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