THE KB THEATER chain is offering a tribute this weekend to the late Ruth Gordon with a double bill featuring two of her greatest roles, Mother Hocheiser in Carl Reiner's 1970 black comedy Where's Poppa? and the freewheeling senior citizen Maude in Hal Ashby's 1971 cult film Harold and Maude. The double bill begins Friday at the KB Cerberus, 3040 M Street NW in Georgetown. Call the Cerberus at 337-1311 for details.
Down the street at its Foundry complex, KB begins a modest Humphrey Bogart festival Friday with John Huston's 1941 detective drama The Maltese Falcon. The series (which promises all 35mm prints) continues with Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep Tuesday through Thursday and Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre next Friday through Monday. The program concludes with Huston's The African Queen, September 17 to 19. For more information, call the Foundry (1055 Thomas Jefferson Street NW) at 337- 0094.
Local universities are beginning their film classes and programs, and by far the most extensive are the Monday-through-Thursday- evening screenings at American University's College of Arts and Sciences, All the AU film showings are free, open to the public, and held on the third floor north of the Mary Graydon Center on the campus at Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues NW.
The AU programs kick off Monday evening at 5:30, as the weekly "History of Motion Pictures I" class begins with a screening of D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation. The 8:10 showing of Jan Nemec's Diamonds of the Night kicks off a semester-long course of "Film and Literature on World War II."
Tuesday at 5:30, "Critical Approach to Cinema" opens with Hitchcock's North By Northwest. At 8:10, "Hollywood Films of the Forties" debuts with Michael Curtiz' Angels With Dirty Faces.
Wednesday at 5:30, a "Television Documentary" course opens with a selection of early documentaries featuring Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North and the Joris Ivens/Pare Lorentz film Power and the Land. A course on Japanese cinema begins Wednesday at 8:10 with Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon.
The Thursday 5:30 slot will be dark for the first session of the "Drama on Film." But next Thursday it features Ingmar Bergman's 1975 adaptation of The Magic Flute.
While course times remain the same throughout the semester, the fare changes each week throughout the semester, offering a broad range of world cinema in the best quality prints the university can rustle up. For a complete schedule, call 885-2040.
The National Museum of American Art, in conjunction with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, is presenting three documentaries on the architectural and social development of Berlin on Thursday, September 12, and again on September 27, at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. The program, timed to coincide with the Anni Albers exhibit currently on view at the Renwick, will feature Berlin -- Paul Anderson: Wiedersehen, in which journalist Paul Anderson compares the city of his student years in the 1930s to today's Berlin. In Berlin: The National Gallery traces the history of the first museum designed by architect Mies van der Rohe. And The Bauhaus: Its Impact on the World of Design will trace the evolution of that strain of architecture. The program is free, and will be presented in the Grand Salon on the second floor of the Renwick Gallery, 17th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Call 357-2531.
This coming Thursday, the American Film Institute Theater will present "An Evening With Peter Kubelka," in which the maverick Austrian avant-garde filmmaker will discuss some of his short films. The program will include Adebar (1957), Schwechater (1958), the oblique and complicated Arnuf Fainer (1960), and Unsere Afrikareise (Our Trip to Africa), which took six years to edit due to Kubelka's belief that a film must be completely rethought between shooting and editing. Starting time is 8:45 at the AFI Theater in the Kennedy Center. Tickets are $3 for AFI members, $3.50 for member's guests, and $4 for non-members. Call 785-4601. Kubelka, by the way, will be in residence with The Washington Project for the Arts through September.
"Pencil Test," the monthly newsletter of Washington's chapter of the International Animated Film Association, is looking for volunteers to help plan and implement the chapter's regional events. Call 684-1050 to volunteer.
According to the Washington-Based Motion Picture Information Service, the area's 10 top- grossing pictures for the week ending August 29 were, in descending order, Back to the Future (still doing over twice the business of its nearest competitor on 18 screens in two full months of release); Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (losing a house to 16 in its third week); Year of the Dragon (staying on 20 screens in week two); Teen Wolf (opening at 12 houses -- 11 of them suburban locations); The Return of the Living Dead (continuing on 22 screens in week two); Silverado (down from 14 to 13 houses in its seventh week); Volunteers (gaining a screen to 15 in week two); Warning Sign (breaking at 17 houses); Ghostbusters (making only a slight dent on 10 screens in week one of its reissue); and Kiss of the Spider Woman (at two houses in its second week).
While most pictures dropped by at least one third during the week (a natural rate of attrition for late August), "Spider Woman" actually increased its take by 2.97 per cent, to a per-screen average of $20,873. Right behind it was Dance With a Stranger, which grossed $20,441 in its eclusive engagement at the Outer Circle. "Future" was third on the list, with a per-screen average of just under $11,000.
In international production news (gleaned from various trade papers): Chevy Chase has been signed to co-star with Steve Martin in the current version of the long-promised live- action version of The Three Caballeros, first presented by Walt Disney as a combination of animation and live action in 1945. The Orion production, which at one point was set to star John Belushi and Bill Murray, will finally roll next January . . . In another animation- related development, George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd. will join forces with Universal Pictures to create a live-action film of the legendary Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck. Screenwriter Willard Huyck will direct the film, with wife Gloria Katz producing. (The three first worked together on "American Graffiti.") Production will begin later this fall, with a summer 1986 release planned . . . Peter Weir ("Witness," "The Year of Living Dangerously") will finally get to film his dream project, an adaptation of Paul Theroux's The Mosquito Coast. Credit Saul Zaentz, the man who financed "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus," with reviving the stalled project. Harrison Ford will star in the film, which was scripted by Paul Schrader . . . Cast of the Week: Penelope Spheeris, who made both "The Decline of Western Civilization" and "Suburbia," is now filming Hollywood Vice Squad, with Carrie Fisher, Ronny Cox, Frank Gorshin, Trish Van Devere, Joey Travolta and Leon Isaac Kennedy . . . While finishing Power (with Julie Christie, Gene Hackman and Richard Gere) for Lorimar Motion Pictures, director Sidney Lumet has signed a three-year deal with that company, which will begin with his next film, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Glitz . . . Director Martin Scorsese, whose After Hours should open soon, just completed a comeo role in French director Bertrand Tavernier's jazz drama 'Round Midnight. Scorsese plays the owner of a New York jazz club, "Birdland," in the movie, which stars tenor saxaphonist Dexter Gordon (the title comes from a tune on Gordon's first Columbia album, "Homecoming").
PAGES OF FILM HISTORY -- Happy birthday this date to comediennes Jo Anne Worley and Jane Curtin.
Among those marking birthdays on Saturday are Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan ("On the Waterfront"), British actor Anthony Quayle and Richard Roundtree, who played "Shaft" in films and on television. On that date in 1978 Who drummer Keith Moon died in the same London apartment that Mama Cass expired in only a few years before.
Sunday's birthdays include those of veteran British leading man Henry Wilcoxon (Marc Antony to Claudette Colbert's "Cleopatra" in Cecil B. DeMille's 1934 epic) and comedian Sid Caesar. On that date in 1966, the U.S. government officially declared LSD dangerous and illegal, and "Star Trek" made its network premiere. And, on September 8, 1974, Gerald Ford pardoned former president Richard Nixon.