Washington Calendar magazine, the glossy monthly mailed free to 155,000 high-income area residences since October of 1976, suspended publication this week.

A spokesman for the magazine's owner, CUC Ltd. of Toronto, said yesterday that a lack of advertising revenue was the principal reason for the cancellation. CUC Ltd. had bought out Washington Calendar's Toronto-based parent company, Calendar Magazines Ltd., in early 1979. Included in the package were four successful Canadian Calendar-style magazines in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal (in both French and English editions).

The Washington edition was a test American market that never developed, the CUC spokesman said, though CUC is currently planning several West Coast editions. Their success could revive the Washington edition according to Calendar Magazines president Robert Hodgins in Toronto.

"There's an economic recession in Canada right now," Washington Calendar publisher Jay Brown said yesterday. "We are still in the investment stage here. Over the last few months, I've been aware of the board's concern. Not being from the magazine business, they were not used to fluctuation during a recession period, particularlyl the whims of advertisers."

The August issue of Washington Calendar carried less than 16 pages of advertising (compared to 116 pages for The Washingtonian, which charges roughly the same rates and has a circulation base of 100,000). The successful Canadian magazines carry a mix of 50 percent local retail and 50 percent national advertising. In Washington, what Hodgins called "national penetration" was very small; 5 percent.The arrival this week of WETA's cooperative program guide, The Dial, threatened to cut more deeply into Washington Calendar's slim local ad sales, and its emphasis on listings had been offset by the arrival of both The Washington Post's Weekend and The Washington Star's Calendar sections.

Since 1976, Washington Calendar (which has a staff of 16) had seen its losses drop from $750,000 a year to a current expected deficit of $250,000. Publisher Brown claimed to have 50 pages of advertising set for the now-canceled September issue.

The failure to develop a strong advertising base -- essential since that the magazine's sole source of income -- could be partially attributed to already-established power of The Washingtonian.

Calendar's method of distribution -- mailing to high-income areas in the hopes that advertisers would want to have a piece of that captive audience --never panned out fully. Advertising revenue barely covered the costs of distribution, and the high-gloss printing proved prohibitively high, as far as CUC Ltd. was concerned.