THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES kicks off a six-week salute to the filmmaking industry this Friday at noon with the first installment of a free, nine-part series entitled "Making Movies."

It opens with "America at the Movies," which focuses on the filmmaking process and the cinema's impact on moviegoers. This is the 112-minute, 1976 production made by the American Film Institute as a Bicentennial salute to American cinema. The film, narrated by Charlton Heston, was produced by George Stevens Jr.

Next Friday, see Before the Nickelodeon, a 1983 film that traces the earliest days of filmmaking, 1896 to 1909, and features Edwin S. Porter, the New Jersey-based filmmaker who made "The Great Train Robbery" and "Life of an American Fireman," among others.

Also on tap are D.W. Griffith: An American Genius, (August 1); Intolerance (August 7); and The Golden Age of Comedy (August 8). Beginning August 7, every-other-Thursday-evening screenings will be added to the every-Friday-at-noon schedule. For a complete schedule of films and showtimes, call 523-3099 or the recorded message, 523-3000. All shows are in the Archives' Fifth Floor Theater at Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street NW.

The Source Theater will open Persistence of Vision, a 50-minute black-and-white film by local filmmaker Andy Zmidzinski, for a five-week run beginning Friday at midnight. This modern retelling of the Orpheus myth stars Steven Dawn, who received a 1986 Helen Hayes Award nomination as Best Actor for his role as a would-be rapist in "Extremities," and Kathryn Kelley, whose credits include "Camille" and "No Exit." Both have appeared at the Source. The production's original music score was composed by Zenon Slawinski of Silver Spring.

The film will screen every Friday and Saturday night at midnight through August 16 at the Main Stage, 1809 14th Street NW. Call 462-1073. Tickets are $5.

Humor, like beauty, is a judgment call. Take Ferris Bueller's Day Off, for example. Reviews have been split on the John Hughes comedy. Nevertheless, there's been steady interest at the box office, with the film bringing in more than $1.2 million in five weeks at Baltimore-Washington area screens.

Locally, one critic called the film "a laugh-packed lark" and a "universally appealing get-away," and described Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller as "a Tom Sawyer of the '80s."

On the other side of the coin is two-time Academy Award-winning actor Jack Nicholson who, in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, said, "Well, that movie made me feel totally irrelevant . . . and 119 years old. I literally walked out of there thinking my days are numbered."

Nicholson isn't the only one who's feeling disassociated. All 172 seats at the upscale K-B Paris theater in Friendship Heights were filled for last Saturday evening's 9:45 show but few in the mostly 40-and-older crowd saw the humor in Bueller's escapades as he led his pals through Chicago and cleverly avoided getting caught at playing hooky. For one cackling couple who heard their laughter echo across the tiny theater, the reasoning is simple: The rest of the audience had left their Ferris Buellers at home and were trying to escape that kind of escapism.

Though not offically titled "Robert Mugge Week," it's beginning to look a bit that way as the American Film Institute begins screening nearly a week's worth of the independent filmmaker's works. Mugge, who grew up in Silver Spring, will introduce a different film on each evening of the weekend. On Friday at 6:30, see his 1985 The Return of Ruben Blades; on Saturday at 6:30. it's The Reggae Movie (1983); and on Sunday at 8 it's Gospel According to Al Green (1984). All three screenings are Washington premieres. Additional Mugge films screen at the AFI Monday through Wednesday. For information, call 785-4600 or 785-4601.

On Thursday morning at 11 at the AFI theater, the Hecht Co. will sponsor a free children's matinee of Forbidden Planet, a 1956 sci-fi flick. Later, at 1 and 3, senior citizens will be treated to the 1930 hit Morocco, featuring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. The catch: You must pick up tickets in the ceiling fan department on the Metro level of the downtown Hecht Company store. For details, call 828-4000. FOR THE RECORD -- Cathy Tyson, the 21-year-old beauty who plays the uptown black prostitute in Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa, is not related to American actress Cicely Tyson. Although the official press handouts claimed the pair have family ties, the film's West Coast publicists, Clein & Feldman Inc., say that they got bum information from the film's original publicist in London. A spokesman for the West Hollywood firm says that Cathy Tyson was in Los Angeles two weeks ago and spent a good deal of her interview time clearing up the matter. BOX OFFICE RECEIPTS -- Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School is passing with flying colors at local box offices.

"It's easily the biggest surprise of the summer," says Freeman Fisher of the 70-screen Circle Theaters chain. He says the film has racked up $1.4 million at area screens since opening on June 13. The strongest summer picture so far, however, is Karate Kid II, which in only four weeks has done $1.6 million. BUSINESS SEMINAR -- "Developing Your Deal" provides insights on creating film deals and discusses ownership rights, distribution, payments and royalties, copyrights and more. The three-hour session is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 at The Production Center at Arthur Young in Reston. Cost is $25. Call Anne Polley at 620-4490. SHORT SUBJECTS -- The Library of Congress' "Music and Movies" series continues on Friday evening at 7:30 in the 64-seat Mary Pickford Theater with The T.A.M.I. (Teen-Age Music International) Show. Filmed in 1964, it features Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Jan and Dean, Lesley Gore, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. Also on the bill is the 1962 Canadian-produced Lonely Boy, a 27-minute film featuring Paul Anka.

On Monday evening at 7:30, Larry Appelbaum, a Library of Congress sound engineer and host of WPFW's (89.3 FM) "Sounds of Surprise" jazz show, will introduce his selection of film clips from the library's collection, including Jivin' in Be-Bop (1947) featuring Dizzy Gillespie; Swings through Japan (1964) with Duke Ellington; The Sound of Miles Davis (1964) with John Coltrane and the Gil Evans Orchestra; and other rare clips. The series is free but reservations are a must. Call 287-5677 during weekday business hours. FILM HISTORY -- Birthday celebrants on Friday include actor Hume Cronyn, who turns 75, and comedian/actor Red Skelton, 73.

Saturday's birthday people include actress Helen Gallagher, 60; singer Vikki Carr, 44; actor Dennis Cole, 43; and actor Peter Barton, 27.