By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When Disney's superhero movie "The Avengers" hits U.S. theaters on Friday, the actors who play Captain America and Thor will chat up the hosts of female-oriented TV talk show "The View."
Hollywood is putting on a full-court press to attract women to summer movies. With a full slate of big-budget action films from Sony's "The Amazing Spider-Man" to Warner Bros' "The Dark Knight Rises" vying for the same fanboy audience, female filmgoers may hold the key to box-office dominance.
Opening weekend sales for "Avengers" could reach $155 million, a performance that would put it in line with the biggest U.S. and Canadian film openings of all time, said Keith Simanton, managing editor of movie website IMDB.com.
"You can't do $155 million with just guys," he said. "It's got to be a date night. It's got to be an event."
Hoping to reach the record books, studios are trying out new ways to get their superhero movie messages beyond the male-dominated comic-book crowd and in front of women.
Sony, for the first time, is using a cosmetics promotion for its new "Spider-Man" movie that reaches theaters July 3.
The studio partnered with nail-polish maker OPI for a movie-themed line promoted in women's magazines including Lucky and O, The Oprah Magazine. Nail colors sport names like "Your Web or Mine?," "My Boyfriend Scales Walls," and "Call me Gwen-ever," a nod to Spider-Man love interest Gwen Stacy.
Featuring relationships and strong female characters, rather than just action, is one way film marketers try to lure women. Stacy, played by Emma Stone, is "such an integral part of the story, so we wanted to highlight that in the marketing," said Marc Weinstock, president of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures.
"It's a testament to the audience and how broad this movie goes," he said.
For "Avengers," Disney's Marvel studio sent its superheroes to the pages of women's magazines and female-targeted TV shows.
Scarlett Johansson appeared on the cover of Vogue and talked to the magazine about her role as Black Widow, one of the few female superheroes on the big screen. Cast members posed in InStyle, Elle, People and other magazines, and chatted on talk shows such as "Good Morning America" and "Live! with Kelly."
On the ABC Family network, moms and daughters saw sneak peeks of "Avengers." The movie's red-carpet premiere was streamed live on websites such as E! and PopSugar.
Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros, meanwhile, is gearing up its marketing for another superhero flick, Batman sequel "The Dark Knight Rises." A trailer released online ahead of the July 20 release features a steamy kiss between Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne and colleague Miranda Tate, giving a heavy dose of romance.
Anne Hathaway's Catwoman, featured prominently in the trailer, appears to play an empowered female role that could draw in women, IMDB's Simanton said.
The summer pursuit of women follows this year's runaway success, "The Hunger Games." The movie is the biggest film of the year so far with more than $600 million in global ticket sales, thanks to female fans who flocked to see resourceful warrior Katniss Everdeen and joined males who turned out for the sci-fi and action elements.
This year's smash hit shows the upside of marketing to women, said Susie Rantz, a spokeswoman for GeekGirlCon, a group that runs a convention celebrating women's roles in geek culture from comics to science and gaming.
The "Hunger Games" success provided Hollywood with "a wake-up call that females in general like action-oriented movies," Rantz said.
(Editing by Edwin Chan and Paul Casciato)