THE PEDAS BROTHERS' Circle Theaters dropped to a 70-screen chain this week after closing the Dupont Theater on Tuesday. Circle Theaters had operated the 360-seat house since 1973.

The Dupont had been setting non-holiday sales records over the past 2 1/2 months with Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters but had been "put on alert" several months ago after the new owners of the Dupont Circle Building announced plans to gut and redevelop it.. The theater had been the only tenants since Jan. 1.

The Pedas Brothers hope to return to the site when construction is completed. Until then, many of the theater's prestige bookings will be moved to the Ontario Theater, where neighborhood demographics are similar.

Inrelated news, the Pedas brothers' New York-based Circle Releasing Company opens the British-made Letter to Brezhnev in New York on Friday. The film has been re-dubbed after a December test screening at the Outer Circle proved the Liverpudlian accents too tough for Yank ears. The film opens at the Outer Circle on May 16.

Meanwhile, Chris Zarpas, who ran Circle Releasing until recently, has joined Disney Studios in Burbank, California, as a production executive in script development.

Insurance, fast becoming everyone's concern, soon could be taking its toll on moviegoers. Last week, Hollywood's trade bible, Daily Variety, carried the story, headlined "Insurance Crisis Hits H'Wood," of how film productions have been hit with skyrocketing insurance premiums over the last six months, with some production risk policies increasing as much as 25 to 30 percent. Much of the blame for the increased premiums is being placed on medical and workmen's compensation rates, which have been rising for some time. The increased cost of insurance, along with lesser actual coverage and higher deductibles, could force Hollywood to raise distribution charges. The next step? Higher ticket prices.

Some reality is best kept out of the movies.

The Smithsonian Resident Associates Program gets into the Hollywood act with a six-part series of "Hollywood Gems" starting on Wednesday with George Cukor's classic 1940 production The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart. The series includes such hits as the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins; Gary Cooper's 1952 High Noon; and the Oscar-winning Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn.

RAP will also screen two Australian films in May starting with A Test of Love on Monday at 8 and Between Wars on May 12. All screenings are in the Museum of American History's Carmichael Auditorium. Series subscriptions and individual tickets are available by dialing 357-3030.

Scholar and conductor Gillian Anderson will lecture on "The Sound of Silents: The Role of Music in Early Silent Films" on Saturday at 1 in Carmichael Auditorium. After the hour-long talk, see Douglas Fairbanks' 1924 The Thief of Bagdad. The events are free and coincide with American History's "Hollywood: Legend and Reality" exhibition. Call 357-2700 for details.

It appears that Hollywood is growing closer to Charlottesville all the time. Actors Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange recently purchased a spread in Albemarle County, but details of the sale are being kept private. In making the move east, Shepard and Lange, who made Country together, join such other celebrity farmers as Sissy Spacek and her director husband Jack Fisk; novelist and screenwriter Rita Mae Brown; and billionaire broadcaster and producer John Kluge, who owns Metromedia Inc.

Although no real estate agent has claimed or confirmed the sale, several colleagues said that the Roy Wheeler Co., a longtime dealer in historic properties and luxury estates, dealt with a representative of the couple.

Some believe that celebrities move to the Charlottesville area to escape the Hollywood hassle.

"They just want to be normal people," figures Frank Quayle of the Wheeler firm. But Quayle says the celebrities aren't attracting other stars. "They wince when they hear that other ones celebrities are here."

In late February, actor-singer Wayne Newton, who runs one of the nation's largest Arabian horse breeding farms outside Las Vegas, backed out of a contract to buy the 1,180-acre Castle Hill estate near Keswick, less than 10 miles from Charlottesville.

The 970-seat New Carrollton Theater, home of the 99-cent movie ticket, will host a week-long Three Stooges Festival beginning Friday. Six Stooges flicks will be screened, twice nightly on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30; and at 7:30 Sunday through Thursday. A separate 99-cent admission will be charged for Rocky IV shown at 11:30 on Friday and Saturday night and at 9:30, Sunday through Thursday nights. Call 459-5666.

The National Archives "American Lives" series presents Voyage to America Friday at noon double-billed with Hymn of the Nations. On Thursday at 7 see Ken Burns' excellent Huey Long. The 90-minute documentary recently brought Burns his second Erik Barnouw Prize. (Barnouw is a well-known historian and filmmaker whose work helped change the course of documentary productions.) Burns first won the award in 1982 for Brooklyn Bridge. All screenings are free in the Archives theater at Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street NW. Call 523-3347. SHORT TAKES -- The National Gallery's free film series continues Saturday at 2:30 in the East Building Auditorium with Luis Bunuel's 1961 Viridiana.

Bobby Roth's year-old, offbeat comedy Heartbreakers gets its Washington premiere this weekend at the American Film Institute. Peter Coyote, Nick Mancuso and the late Carol Wayne star. It screens Sunday at 6:30 and Tuesday at 8:45. Washington film premieres continue on Wednesday at 6:30 with Rate It X, a look at sexism by Lucy Winer and Paula De Koenigsberg, who interview New York cable star Ugly George and the humor editor for Larry Flynt Publications.

Meanwhile, "Film-Utsav India," a collection of nearly 50 films from India produced during the past half-century, begins its six-week stay at the AFI on Monday with the 8:45 showing of The Undefeated/The Unexpected (1937). It's in Hindi with subtitles. Next in the series is Mr. Shome (1969), also in Hindi with subtitles, on Thursday at 6:30. Call 785-4601 or 785-4600.

The Reston Community Center Theater will screen Sergei Eisenstein's 1928 silent film October (Ten Days That Shook The World) on Sunday at 7:30. It's free. Call 703/476-4500.

Georgetown's Aberdeen Book Shop recently added a film and video series to its offerings. This month, the rare-book store at 3236 P Street NW features works by Washington filmmakers beginning on Tuesday at 7:30 with Terry Zwigoff's Louie Bluie, a look at black jug, skiffle and string bands. It features 76-year-old fiddle player Howard Armstrong. Cinematographer Chris Li will be on hand for questions. The series continues on May 13 with the Oscar-nominated The Courage to Care, with director and co-producer Robert Gardner; and on May 20 with Sherry Jones' So You Want to Be President. The series is free but strictly limited to 60 people per screening. For details, call 338-2747. FILM HISTORY -- Friday marks the day in 1932 that then-unknown Chicagoan Benjamin Kubelsky debuted on NBC's Blue network in his first radio show as Jack Benny. Benny made more than a dozen films in his four-decade-long acting career, including To Be or Not to Be (1942) and A Guide for the Married Man (1967).

And it was 45 years ago on Friday that the Federal Communications Commission approved the regular scheduling of commercial television broadcasts. Also on Friday, actor Theodore Bikel celebrates his 62nd birthday.

Saturday is remembered as the day in 1802 that Washington, D.C., was incorporated as a city, with the mayor to be appointed by the president, and the council elected by property owners. Also on Saturday, actress Mary Astor turns 80.

On Sunday, actress Audrey Hepburn celebrates her 57th birthday.