BY ACQUIRING Circle Theaters, Cineplex Odeon Corporation is suddenly the dominant movie-exhibiting force in town. This week, the Canadian exhibitor/distributor announced the $45 million acquisition of the family-owned 80-screen chain and opens a six-screen complex at 4000 Wisconsin Ave.

Circle's planned openings of theaters at Dupont Circle (five screens, December 23) and Shirlington Village (seven screens, Friday) will continue, according to Cineplex Chairman and CEO Garth H. Drabinsky. Ticket prices will also remain at $6, he said. This now means Cineplex Odeon (of which MCA owns just under 50 percent) will own and operate 172 screens in 50 locations in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. In North America, the company will then have 1,647 screens in 493 locations -- making it one of the biggest chains in the country.

Cineplex, also a distributor (and owner of the largest studio in Canada), will continue to provide "speciality" programming, much as the family-owned Circle chain did under brothers Ted and Jim Pedas.

"We understand the sensitivities of the marketplace," said Drabinsky. "We own theaters . . . in major filmgoing markets and pride ourselves in running fabulous theaters in all these markets. We'll continue the fine work the Pedases have done . . ." The Andrei Tarkovsky film series at the National Gallery of Art is coming to a close with the filmmaker's 1983 Nostalghia (at 2 Saturday and 6 Sunday) and the 1986 The Sac rifice, which had a brief run at the Biograph recently. "Sacrifice" plays at 2 next Saturday (December 26) (and at 6 next Sunday). Admission at the East Building auditorium is free.

The Biograph offers another chance this weekend to see Stephen Frears' Prick up Your Ears -- the story of British playwright Joe Orton, doubled with Frear's My Beautiful Laundrette, through Monday only.

The American Film Institute has the Washington premiere of Leos Carax's Boy Meets Girl, a French production. It's the story of a would-be filmmaker who falls in love. Carax's Bad Blood was recently featured at the New York Film Festival. Showtimes are 6:30 Friday and 6 Saturday. Admission is $5 for members and $6 for nonmembers. Call 785-4600.

The National Archives will show Laurel and Hardy's classic Sons of the Desert (1933) and Revenge of the Sons of the Desert -- a 28-minute 1987 documentary about a Laurel and Hardy buffs' convention. The free show's at noon at the Archives theater (Eighth and Pennsylvania NW).

Screening Friday at the Library of Congress' Mary Pickford Theater is the first James Bond feature, Dr. No -- free. Monday, it's The Adventures of Robin Hood by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains. The 1938 classic is followed on Tuesday by Richard Lester's 1976 version, Robin and Marian, with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. All shows are at 7:30. Call 287-5677 soon for reservations.