HOLLYWOOD -- Unless the dollar gets stronger soon, the movie industry is going to take on a bit more foreign flavoring in 1988.

Nobody is predicting that such quintessentially European directors as Bernardo Bertolucci or Roman Polanski are about to become the hottest properties in Hollywood.

And deal-makers should rest easy. It does not appear that their yachts will be bigger than ours at Cannes next year.

But the dollar's sharp decline in the last several months against major world currencies is causing some serious shifts in filmmaking economics.

Compared with already depressed levels of a year ago, the dollar is down about 16 percent against the French franc, 21 percent against the British pound, 18 percent against the West German mark and a whopping 23 percent against the Japanese yen.

In a global business like movie-making, such things tend to have considerable consequences. For instance:

Europeans are looking to film in America on the cheap. Jake Eberts, an economy-minded London producer who helped finance "Gandhi," "The Killing Fields" and "Hope and Glory," hopes to make his next movie in the United States -- where shooting costs are suddenly lower than in Britain. "It's very difficult to make the sort of 'special' films I get involved in unless I can do it for a {good} price. For the first time, I can't do that in Europe" because of the dollar's fall, says Eberts.

Meanwhile, U.S. production companies are shying away from projects that would have to be shot in the United Kingdom, France or elsewhere, leading to a drop in activity at some foreign movie studios.

The foreign box office is boosting studio profits. Remember, U.S. movie companies are big exporters. Their foreign sales had dropped to as little as 32 percent of total box office revenue in the mid-1980s, when the dollar was king. Back then, a movie ticket sold to French or German viewers in their own currencies did not translate into big bucks. But foreign revenue rose sharply in 1987, and is likely to hit 40 percent of the total soon. "We attribute about 45 percent of the {1987} increase to {changing exchange rates}," explains Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

"The currency changes will have a very positive effect on {studio} profits, continuing into the first half of 1988," says Harold Vogel, a securities analyst with Merrill Lynch & Co. But that does not necessarily make depressed movie stocks a bargain, cautions Vogel. Fluctuating exchange rates have already been factored into stock prices by savvy investors.

Movie content may be changing. Ever so slightly. It would be foolish to argue that studios went for a big crop of all-American teen comedies in 1985 just because a strong dollar made the domestic box office dominant. But it is accepted Hollywood wisdom that such pictures do not play well around the world, and that executives are more inclined toward "Rambo"-like action films or "Fatal Attraction"-like adult fare when they are wooing foreign markets.

"To some extent, {strong foreign currencies} will figure into the mix" when picking new movies this year, says Universal Pictures Chairman Thomas Pollock. Universal's "Cry Freedom" -- which is directed by Briton Richard Attenborough, and depicts racism in South Africa -- is one current example of a film that aims squarely at international markets, not just the United States.

Regardless of the dollar's strength or weakness, the foreign market for American entertainment is immense.

Forbes magazine recently estimated that all forms of entertainment yielded a trade surplus of about $5.5 billion for the United States in 1987, placing show business just behind aerospace and agriculture among America's biggest net exporters. Movie revenue from theaters, cassettes and cable TV accounted for about $3 billion of that total, according to Forbes.

The movie studios actually received a much higher percentage of their total revenue from the foreign box office in the 1970s, before the video revolution -- and attendant piracy problems -- took a big bite out of the international theater business.

In the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and elsewhere, however, a movie theater revival has joined stronger local currencies in contributing to studio income, even as foreign video and television sales are rising.

"Next year's going to show solid growth {in foreign revenue}, and not just because of exchange rates," says Michael Williams-Jones, president of United International Pictures, which distributes film abroad for Paramount, Universal and MGM-UA.

For U.S. movie executives, says Williams-Jones, the lesson is simple: "It's going to be a very good idea to focus increased attention on what's happening overseas."