THE UNIVERSITY of Maryland's Hoff Theater winds up another semester of first-run movies this weekend with free matinee screenings of recent releases on Saturday, and then Monday through Wednesday.

The four-day free film fling for exam-worn students and anyone else who's interested offers St. Elmo's Fire, (a.k.a. The Little Chill), The Breakfast Club, The Big Chill, The Wizard of Oz, Risky Business, Sleeper and Thunderball.

When classes are in session, the 746-seat Hoff Theater, complete with a wide stage, a Dolby Surround Sound system and projection for 16mm, 35mm and Cinemascope, is open to students and the general public almost nightly at very reasonable prices; $2.50 for adults; $1.75 students, senior citizens, kids 12 and under, and alumni association members. The five-year-old South African comedy, The Gods Must Be Crazy, screens Friday through Sunday nights this weekend. After Wednesday's free screenings, the theater will be closed until June 2.

During the fall and spring, the theater's programing arm, the Hoff Theater Film Committee, often changes pictures three or four times per week to include not only box office hits but also foreign and avant garde features, and on weekends at midnight, horror and "party-type" films.

The Hoff is on the ground floor of the Adele H. Stamp Union next to Cole Field House and does not have a concession stand. Moviegoers are invited to bring their own popcorn and sodas. Seating for the handicapped and an audio system for the hearing impaired are available. For a complete movie schedule, call 454-2594 (recording), or 454-4987.

The folks at Beltway Plaza Mall in Greenbelt really know how to get at least half the population interested in "National Police Week." On Saturday, Don Johnson of "Miami Vice" and calendar boy fame, who is also serving as the national spokesman for the week-long national event, will receive a special citation at the mall's Center Stage at 2. There'll also be 20 exhibits by law-enforcement agencies. For details, call Pat Valle at 345-6300.

Insurance, fast becoming everyone's concern, soon could be taking its toll on moviegoers. Recently, 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.

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. If you want to see a sneak preview of Poltergist II, tune in radio station WAVA (105.9 FM). It is handing out passes to Saturday's midnight screening at the Jenifer. The radio station has lined up nearly a half-dozen exclusive movie premieres over the next several weeks, including one for Psycho III on June 9 when Anthony "Norman Bates" Perkins is scheduled to make a personal appearance. SHORT TAKES -- The Sunny Side of Life, the 1985 tribute to the Carter Family musicians, shows Friday at noon at the National Archives theater. On Thursday evening at 7, the "American Lives" series continues with the 1937 The Awful Truth starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The showings are free. The Archives is at Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street NW.

The Baltimore Film Forum will feature Italian-made pictures for the rest of May starting on Friday evening at 8 with 1900, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1976 saga of 20th- century Italy which includes a study of Fascism and Socialism. Robert De Niro, Burt Lancaster, Gerard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland and Dominique Sanda star in this 243-minute drama. Then, on Thursday evening at 8, see Francesco Rosi's Three Brothers made in 1980. Call 301/685-4170.

Don't forget D.W. Griffith's sparkling 150-minute Way Down East, starring Lillian Gish. The 1920 silent film screens on Saturday evening at 7 at Baird Auditorium in the Natural History Museum and will be supported by a nine-member orchestra. (Gish's most recent work, Sweet Liberty, opens Friday in Washington). Tickets for "Way Down East" are $10 for members of the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program; $15 for nonmembers. Call 357-3030.

The Polish Film Discussion Group will take its summer break after this Sunday's 2 p.m. free screening of In Broad Daylight, directed in 1980 by Edward Zebrowski and based on a novel by Wladyslaw Terlecki. The film stars Michal Bajor and Krystyna Janda and is in Polish with English subtitles. The group will meet at the Arlington Public Library, 1015 North Quincy Street, Arlington. Call 984-7155 or 342-0981.

Georgetown's Aberdeen Book Shop recently added a film and video series to its offerings. On Tuesday at 7:30 the rare-book store at 3236 P Street NW features Sherry Jones' So You Want to Be President. The Washington filmmaker will be on hand to introduce her work. It's free but strictly limited to 60 people per screening. For details, call 338-2747.

RAP's "Gems of Hollywood Genres" series shows High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly on Wednesday at 7:30 in Carmichael Auditorium at the Museum of American History. Tickets are $5 for members; $6.50 for non-members. Call 357-3030.

On Thursday at the Renwick Gallery see The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. The 60-minute look at one of this century's most noted architects screens free at 11, 12:15 and 1:30. Call 357-2700.