Since the company has avidly pursued big stars and respected filmmakers in its quest to be seen as a legitimate, respectable Hollywood studio, you'd expect Cannon Films to make a fuss about a movie whose cast includes Molly Ringwald, Woody Allen, Burgess Meredith, Norman Mailer and theater director Peter Sellars. But while Cannon is about to release a movie that includes all those people, you won't find any of their names in the advertisements. The film is Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear," which is alternately subtitled "Fear and Loathing," "A Study," "An Approach" and "A Clearing." In addition to making the most unconventional Shakespeare-based film in recent memory, the French director has asked that Cannon not advertise the film's cast. In a way, that makes sense: Anybody expecting to see Meredith as Lear or Ringwald as Cordelia would likely be taken aback by Godard's nonnarrative exploration of a few of the themes in "Lear," with the passages of straight Shakespeare far outnumbered by a semisurreal narrative in which Sellars plays a distant relative of Shakespeare's trying to reconstruct the playwright's work sometime "after Chernobyl," when "movies and art ... have to be reinvented." Cannon does drop a few hints about the movie's actors in its press notes -- though its description of Sellars as "known mostly to theatre aficionados in New York City and parts of New England" shortchanges the highly visible years the director spent in Washington.

For Your Consideration ...

This is the month when studios routinely schedule a solid lineup of free screenings to Academy Award voters -- but it's a tricky business, because the studios want to concentrate on the films that have a chance of winning some awards, but can't ignore other pictures without ruffling the feathers of important directors and producers. So nearly everything gets screened -- but all the same, it's easy to tell where the priorities lie. At Paramount, for example, January's screening lineup includes five showings of "The Untouchables" and "Fatal Attraction," but only two each of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Hamburger Hill," "Summer School," "Back to the Beach" and box office champ "Beverly Hills Cop II." Universal is holding one screening each of "Cross My Heart," "Harry and the Hendersons" and "Walker," two of "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll," "The Secret of My Success" and "Dragnet," three of "Batteries Not Included" and five of "Cry Freedom." And the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group is making things even clearer: It's showing "Hiding Out," "From the Hip," "Date With an Angel" and "The Bedroom Window" once, "Near Dark" three times and "Weeds" 12 times.

Starting Off With a Bang

Three days into 1988, one box office record had already been broken. Last weekend, "Three Men and a Baby" made more money than any film had ever made on the New Year's weekend. At more than $84 million, "Three Men" is now the biggest grossing film ever released by Disney's Touchstone Films division. Last weekend, by the way, "Three Men" made almost twice as much as the second-place "Throw Momma From the Train"; it almost equaled the per-screen totals of "Broadcast News," theater by theater the biggest grosser among the films in wide release last weekend (though limited-release films such as "Housekeeping," "Ironweed" and "The Dead" had bigger per-screen totals); and, to top things off with an unfair comparison, "Three Men" made 18 times as much overall and 10 times as much per theater as "Leonard Part 6," the season's unequivocal disaster.

Speaking of box office records, it turns out that week between Christmas and New Year's Day was the biggest week in the history of motion pictures: A gross of $158 million total, more than $20 million above the previous record.