While the major distributors concentrate their attention on the Christmas season, the gaps in the usually slack November schedule have begun to fill up with imports and offbeat American features. The British comedy THE MISSIONARY, a vehicle for ex-Python Michael Palin, was a late addition to Friday's opening list. Jeanne Moreau's new feature, L'ADOLESCENTE, and a rare Turkish import, YOL, are now set to open November 12, along with the domestic horror comedies CREEPSHOW and JEKYLL & HYDE . . . TOGETHER AGAIN. There's also a vintage revival curio headed for the Dupont Circle: the early '50s production of AIDA, which had Renata Tebaldi singing the lead but was rather more celebrated for the presence of the young Sophia Loren, occasionally in the nude in some European- release versions.

The 19th adds engagements of Fassbinder's VERONIKA VOSS at the Key and Robert Altman's economical come-back project, a film version of his recent play COME BACK TO THE FIVE 'N' DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, shot in 16mm, at a Circle showcase. THE ESCAPE ARTIST and HEIDI'S SONG also remain in place for that Friday, along with the last revival of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, prior to the release of the concluding segment of the trilogy, REVENGE OF THE JEDI, next May.

The romantic comedy sleeper THE PERSONALS, an attractive independent feature made in Minneapolis, has been postponed from November until January, probably a better time for it anyway, since the balmy setting ought to enhance its appeal in mid-winter. The opening dates of the FRANCIS COPPOLA movies derived from S.E. Hinton novels keep receding into a more distant future. THE OUTSIDERS, promised to many exhibitors for Oct. 29 and then abruptly withdrawn to a tentative Christmas premiere, is now spoken of as a tentative February release. RUMBLEFISH is considered unlikely before the fall of 1983. The status of FRANCES, a British-made movie biography about former Hollywood star Frances Farmer, impersonated by Jessica Lange, may have become exceedingly iffy after a less than encouraging studio sneak a few Fridays back at the Fine Arts. About a third of the audience was tallied walking out in the course of the 145-minute traumaspiel, characterized by one movie-wise friend as "Midnight Express Meets the Snake Pit."

The Washington chapter of WOMEN IN FILM AND VIDEO has secured one of the Christmas releases, BEST FRIENDS, a romantic comedy about a screenwriting team co-starring Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn, for a benefit showing on Thursday, December 16, the day before its scheduled theatrical release. The site has yet to be announced. The organization's third annual FILM FESTIVAL, programed in collaboration with the American Film Institute's Exhibition Services office, is earmarked for March 4 to 13 at the AFI Theater. There's a good possibility that Martin Ritt's film version of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' CROSS CREEK, starring Mary Steenburgen, will be ready in time to launch the event. For further information about WIFV programs and events, call 328-7888.

ROBERT WISE has agreed to appear at the University of Maryland the weekend of November 19 to 21 as part of a MOVIE MANIA CONVENTION scheduled for the Hoff Theater. Wise will host a revival of WEST SIDE STORY and head a panel discussion on the state of the film industry. SHIRLEY CLARKE will be hosting three programs the same weekend under the auspices of the AFI and WIFV. In addition to her AFI appearance on the 19th to introduce THE COOL WORLD, she'll be at American University's Mary Graydon Center on the 20th from 2 to 5 to conduct a FILM-AND- LECTURE program on her career and at the university's TV studio the following day from 10 to 4 to supervise a VIDEO WORKSHOP. For reservations and detailed information on the Clarke appearances, call the AFI at 785-4601.

Potentially fascinating collaborations in the works among the Italian-American branch of American movies: BRIAN DE PALMA will direct an updated remake of SCARFACE starring Al Pacino as a Cuban refugee involved in the drug trade; SYLVESTER STALLONE will direct John Travolta in STAYING ALIVE, a sequel to "Saturday Night Fever." The most loaded cast of a film in production surely belongs to the pirate spoof YELLOWBEARD. In addition to former Python colleagues Graham Chapman (in the title role), John Cleese and Eric Idle, the comic crew has expanded to include Cheech & Chong, Madeline Kahn, John Candy, Peter Cook, James Mason, Peter Boyle, Michael Hordern, Stacy Nelkin, Beryl Reid, Peter Bull and Susannah York.