The American Film Institute Theater returns to regular repertory programming this weekend by launching three concurrent series devoted to Ernst Lubitsch, Soviet movies and the American avant-garde.

The Lutbitsch series consists of 22 titles ranging from the German silent film "Madame DuBarry," made in 1919 with Pola Negri and Emil Jannings in the leads, to the 1948 "That Lady in Ermine," which was completed by Otto Preminger after lubitsch suffered a fatal heart attack eight days into the production.

The series will open Friday with an 8:30 p.m. double-bill of the 33 adaptation of Noel Coward's "Design for Living," which co-starred Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March, and the 1937 "Angel," which starred Marlene Dietrich.

The series offers nine newly minted 35mm prints, courtesy of a grant from Exxon. In addition to the opening bill, the fresh prints should enhance "The Merry Widow," "So This Is Paris," "Lady Windemere's Fan," "The Shop Around the Corner," "To Be or Not To Be," "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" and "Monte Carlo."

The Soviet retrospective, continuing a series that began earlier this fall, opens with Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible" (Paris I and II) on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. This expressionist eyeful will be repeated at the same time Monday.

If you've never seen Eisenstein's "Ivan," this is as good a time as any, since it will help to explain where Bernardo Bertolucci picked up some of his brainstorms for "1900," which will probably open commercially in Washington at Christmas.

The avant-garde series begins Friday at 6:30 p.m. with a program of short works by Maya Deren, Willard Mass, Harry Smith, Kenneth Anger and James Broughton. Family matinees begin this Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. with the 1934 MGM production of "Treasure Island." It will be followed by "Yellow Submarine," "My Friend Flicka" and "The Sea Hawk" on subsequent weekends.

AFI Theater organist Ray Brubacher will appear this Saturday at the Winberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Md., to accompany a benefit showing of Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last" on a 1926 Wurlitzer. The Weinberg Center, formerly the Tivoli Theater, was recently donated to the city as an arts center.

Tickets for this performance, which begins at 8 p.m., are priced at $5. For information about reservations, please call Kary Walker at

The Washington Project for the Arts has announced a program of abstract shorts by Bruce Wood, a 26-year-old experimental filmmaker, this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The site of the screening is 1227 G St. NW, and the admission price is $2. The Smithsonian has begun a free 10-part series of BBC-Television dramas about famous explorers. The one-hour color films are being shown Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at 12:30 p.m. in the Carmichael Auditorium of the Museum of History and Technology.

Three local filmmakers, Daniel Bailes, Robert Silverthorne and Katherine King, have collaborated on a 23-minute documentary about nursing, "Breast-Feeding: A Special Closeness," which will be shown at the Biograph on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 10:30 a.m. Admission is free.

Worst idea for a movie since Michael Winner began his remake of "The Big Sleep": a film biography of Vivien Leigh with Marisa Berenson in the starring role, which was just announced by producer Allan Carr and new business associate Jim Randall, who also happens to be Berenson's husband.

"Citizen Kane" seems the inevitable first choice at Thursday night's AFI gala ostensibly honoring the "most memorable American films." However, a quick look at the 50 "finalists," which includes one title from the '20s and 15 titles from the late '60s and the '70s, including such venerable classics as "All the President's Men" and "Rocky," indicates that AFI members particpating in the survey had rather short memories.

THe AFI Theater might use this list as a starting point for remedial programming in American film history, particularly in the areas of silent films, Westerns, comedies and musicals.