The Christmas movie season in the Washington area begins with a spectacular downbeat on Wednesday, Dec. 14, when "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" opens at five locations.

The following attractions are also definitely booked: "The Goodbye Girl," a romantic comedy written by Neil Simon, directed by Herbert Ross and co-starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, on Friday, Dec. 23; "The World's Greatest Lover," the new Gene Wilder comedy, also on the 23d; "Short Eyes," a film version of Miguel Pinero's play about prison inmates, on Friday, Dec. 16; a Disney fantasy, "Pete's Dragon," that combines animation and live-action; three vehicles aimed at action fans, Clint Eastwood in "The Gauntlet," Charles Bronson in "Telefon" and Robert Aldrich's movie version of Joseph Wambaugh's novel "The Choirboys"; the Bernardo Bertolucci epic "1900" and Francois Truffaut's latest, "The Man Who Loved Women."

"Star Wars," the year's biggest attraction, will continue through the holidays at its present locations. In addition, the Uptown will begin showing the film in 70mm on Wednesday, Dec. 21. "The Turning Point," which had a rousing opening week at the Dupont Circle, will expand to three suburban locations on Dec. 23.

There is a chance that "Close Encounters" may be shown in 70mm at the K-B Cinema 7 at Bailey's Crossroads. It will definitely be in 35mm at the other four locations - the K-B Cinema in the city, the Marlow, New Carrollton and Springfield Mall - and at the moment it's uncertain if any of the houses will be adding the Dolby "noise-reduction," multiple-track sound system for the engagements.

They should be encouraged to, because the film is designed for a big audio-visual presentation, and its impact will be enhanced by a larger, crisper sound system. In this instance "noise-reduction" refers not to volume but clarify throughout different sound levels and intensities. During the most exciting sequences the sound effects and music in the picture are supposed to be overpowering.

Louis Malle's great documentary epic "Phantom India" is being revived for two weeks at the K-B MacArthur beginning Friday. Parts 1-4 will be shown on Friday through Monday and parts 5-7 from Tuesday through Thursday. A relatively new Chinese Communist feature, "Island Militia Women," has been booked for two showings at the Newton, 12th & Newton Streets NE, on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 and 3:30 p.m.

A casting session is scheduled this Sunday at the Biograph from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for a local public service film. Actors and actresses who cannot appear are invited to send pictures and resumes to 32 Adams Mill Road NW, Washington, D.C., 20010. Those who can appear are also requested to bring photos and resumes.

The Smithsonian has announced free showings of "A Child's Christmas in Wales," "Hans Brinker" and "The Wizard of Oz" at Carmichael Auditorium the week after Christmas. The first film, a 26-minute short inspired by the Dylan Thomas poem, will be shown at 10:30 a.m. from Monday, Dec. 26 through Friday, Dec 30 and at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. "hans Brinker," a Disney feature, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Dec. 26 Dec. 30 and also at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 26, 27 and 30. "The Wizard of Oz" will be shown at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 and 29.